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Israeli energy minister due in Cyprus to address Aphrodite field dispute

comment ellinas consumption of oil and gas is likely to peak sooner than expected

Israeli energy minister Karine Elharrar will be in Cyprus on Monday 19 to address the pending dispute with Nicosia over the Yishai gas field, according to his Cypriot counterpart Natasa Pilides.

Pilides told CNA on that Elharrar will be visiting Cyprus “in the context of our institutionalised discussion over Yishai.”

Israeli daily business newspaper Calcalist on Saturday, citing unnamed but reliable sources reported that Israel was looking into a new framework to address the pending dispute with Cyprus over the Aphrodite/Yishai gas fields.

Reportedly, Elharrar will propose to the Cypriot side to take over 10 per cent of the field which the Israeli side considers its own, against monetary compensation.

This comes six months after intergovernmental parleys aimed at resolving the longstanding dispute were announced to be taking place between the two countries.

The dispute derives from the claim of the owners of the Yishai Pelagic licence, on the Israeli side of the Israel/Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary line, adjacent to Cyprus’ Block 12, that the Aphrodite gas deposit extends into Yishai.

The position of the owners of Cyprus’ Block 12 is that Aphrodite does not extend into Yishai, and that even if it did, any amounts of natural gas are negligible, less than 1 per cent.

The two sides, together with the Cypriot and Israeli governments, have been in negotiations since 2011 but have not managed to agree to a gas unitisation agreement – a formula to distribute proceeds whenever one nation’s gas field crosses into another nation’s EEZ.

Calcalist had said that the Israeli energy ministry was looking into the proposal given that the issue has been pending for a long time, has not been resolved by the companies involved and the chances of it being resolved at the intergovernmental level were considered slim.

If Israel receives the monetary compensation for the said field, the benefit will be considerable both for its public coffers as well as for the Israeli taxpayers, according to Calcalist.

The Israeli government did not comment on the report.

Israel is amid a pre-election period ahead of the November 1 elections, while at the same time is at an advanced stage dialogue with Lebanon to resolve their dispute over the delineation of their exclusive economic zones.

Prime minister Yair Lapid’s faction to which Karine Elharrar is attached, is promoting the resolution of long-standing unresolved issues with Lebanon, and if possible, with Cyprus, before the November elections.

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