Despite ongoing negotiations between the two countries, a media report said Cyprus continued to develop an offshore gas field, which extends into the Israeli exclusive economic zone, suggesting that this made Israel look weak.
Citing a University of Haifa study, the Jerusalem Post said Israel was at risk of unwittingly placing itself in the company of weak nations that are unable to protect their interests “should it continue to look the other way as Cyprus continues to develop the Aphrodite-Yishai gas field.”
According to the paper, the study used examples of other cases — the South Pars/North Dome Gas-Condensate field, which Iran and Qatar share; the Jubilee oil field that, while mostly Ghanian, has a part controlled by the Ivory Coast; or the dispute between Congo and Angola over oil.
“They argue that in each case, it was the “weaker” country that didn’t secure its legitimate interest – which would, ironically, place Israel in the same league as Iran,” the Post said.
The two countries had agreed about a decade ago to try and reach agreement or turn to arbitration if gas was found within the Israeli EEZ.
In 2012, Israel Opportunity was found that about 10 per cent of the gas field is in the Israeli EEZ and ordered a study, suggesting it would mean €1.3bn in taxes and royalties Israel.
Despite this, the report said, Cyprus was moving ahead with plans to sell gas from Aphrodite to Egypt.
However, as recently as August, Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides had said that talks between Cyprus and Israel were on the right track as regards the issue.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency after a video conference with her Israeli counterpart, Yuval Steinitz, Pilides said talks “are going quite well”.
She added that following the submission of Cyprus’ detailed proposals and the relevant agreements Nicosia signed last November with the energy companies interested in developing the reserve, Israel has started to examine the issue and expressed interest in resolving it soon.