By Elias Hazou
AN Israeli delegation will be visiting the island next week to discuss with their Cypriot counterparts the matter concerning the extension of the Aphrodite gas field into Israeli waters.
Israel’s energy minister Yuval Steinitz confirmed the visit while speaking at an oil and gas conference in Tel Aviv.
The Aphrodite gas field discovered in Cyprus’ Block 12 is believed to extend in part to the license in Israel’s waters.
If true, that would mean that Israel would need to be included in the development of the reservoir. It is understood to be the key reason for the delay in signing a unitisation agreement – regulating exploitation of cross-border reserves – between Cyprus and Israel, with talks dragging on for about five years.
Steinitz said the purpose of the delegation’s visit to Cyprus is “to push forward on the matter and our aim is to sign an agreement in the coming few months,” according to Israeli news outlet Globes.
According to Steinitz, the unitisation agreement was discussed between himself, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Nicos Anastasiades during the latter’s official visit to Israel last week.
Steinitz also said that Israel, Cyprus and Egypt are discussing the joint development of gas fields in their countries.
“I’m not allowed to say much about this but we are examining the option. The first option is joint development of reservoirs and through the existing liquefied gas installations in Egypt and a second option is building a gas pipeline to Turkey, and from there the gas can continue to Europe.”
Steinitz revealed also that his government would approve the nation’s gas outline agreement in mid-December and would go into effect at the start of 2016.
“Then several months after that, I have already given instructions to open up the waters,” he said.
Last month, energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis told Globes that Cyprus is keen on joint development of the Aphrodite and Leviathan gas fields, but that Nicosia cannot wait indefinitely for Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, the government spokesman revealed on Thursday that President Nicos Anastasiades held a telephone conversation with the chief executive of Italian energy giant ENI.
“The President has returned from a very important trip to three neighbouring nations, he has spoken on the phone with the President of Egypt, and in this context there took place a discussion and an exchange of views with the chief executive of ENI,” spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told reporters.
Asked whether the government had news on ENI’s plans, the spokesman said “there is an ongoing dialogue and when something specific comes up we shall make the relevant announcements.”
ENI also holds licenses on three Cypriot offshore blocks.
In Egyptian waters, ENI recently discovered a massive gas field, dubbed Zohr. The company’s CEO subsequently began talking up an eastern Mediterranean gas hub involving Egypt, Israel and Cyprus.