Cyprus is well-positioned to play a key role in the European Union’s drive for energy security although several factors must coalesce for that to happen, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides told MPs on Tuesday.
The first factor, the minister said, is the increased likelihood of further natural gas finds in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) following the recent discovery of the massive Zohr reservoir in Egyptian waters and in close proximity to the island’s EEZ.
That development has rekindled energy companies’ interest in Cyprus’ EEZ, said Kasoulides.
French energy giant Total hope to drill an exploratory well in their Block 11 concession this coming autumn, he noted.
The second aspect relates to the synergies which Cyprus is currently developing with its neighbours.
“Our country’s actions vis a vis Egypt, Israel and Jordan set an example, and they bolster our country’s role within the EU,” Kasoulides told lawmakers during a session of the House commerce and energy committee.
Another factor is Cyprus’ status as an EU member state. Here, Kasoulides said, the island is involved in two projects of EU-wide interest: the proposed EuroAsia Interconnector, a subsea cable connecting Israel’s power grid to mainland Europe, via Cyprus; and the mooted Εastern Mediterranean Pipeline, again making use of Israeli natural gas.
Lastly, the minister cited the island’s geopolitical position and the geographical extent of the EEZ, through which any Israeli or Egyptian gas to be transported to Europe must necessarily pass.
But, he added, all four factors need to come together to lock in Cyprus’ role in the EU energy security project.
And this depended on diplomacy as well as commercial interests.
Responding to MPs’ questions, Kasoulides said the Republic is ready to consider the possibility of a gas pipeline running from Israel to Turkey, but only once the Cyprus problem is solved.
The chief diplomat sought to assure MPs that Turkey and Israel cannot proceed with such a pipeline, as it must necessarily cross through Cyprus’ EEZ.
The Law of the Sea and concomitant bilateral agreements therefore require that Israel must first secure Cyprus’ approval before clinching a pipeline deal with Turkey.
Moreover, said Kasoulides, the state of Israel has assured Cyprus that it will not press forward unless it has the Republic’s consent.
In the event of a Cyprus settlement, he noted, a feasibility study could be carried out for a possible pipeline routed to Turkey via Cyprus.
Speaking to reporters after the committee session, AKEL deputy Christos Mesis said that from the briefing it emerged that the government has all but abandoned the idea of a land-based gas terminal on the island.
The foreign minister informed them that at this time a land-based facility is not an option as the proven gas reserves are insufficient.
But this policy is unfortunate, and a decision Cyprus may come to rue in the event that more gas is discovered in the EEZ, Mesis said.