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Cyprus, Israel vow speedy end to gas row

Cyprus Energy Minister Natasa Pilides, on the left, meets her Israeli counterpart Karine Elharrar in Nicosia on September 19, 2022
— Nicosia (AFP)

Cyprus and Israel agreed Monday to resolve speedily a long-running dispute on exploiting a natural gas reservoir that straddles the maritime boundaries of both countries, energy ministers said.

Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar held talks in Nicosia with her Cypriot counterpart, Natasa Pilides, to end a decade-long row over exploiting the reservoir in the eastern Mediterranean.

The energy ministers "agreed on the continuation of the constructive process followed for the Aphrodite and Yishai deposits issue for a fair and speedy resolution", said a commerce ministry statement.

It said working groups had made progress and that "both sides expressed optimism about the chances of a settlement and encouraged the companies involved to continue their dialogue".

Elharrar said that, due to the global energy crisis and Europe's growing gas needs, "it is in our best interest for both sides to expedite their work for a swift, transparent and fair settlement".

The Cypriot Aphrodite field and Israel's Yishai gas field expand across the maritime territory claimed by both countries.

Aphrodite -- licensed to US firm Chevron, Britain's Shell, and Israeli partners -- was discovered in 2011 and is estimated to hold around 4.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

A small portion of the field extends into the Yishai license in the Israeli exclusive economic zone, an obstacle complicating its development.

In March 2021, the Cypriot and Israeli energy ministers agreed to give the partners in Aphrodite and Yishai a year to conduct direct negotiations or to refer the matter to an international expert, if needed.

Over a year later, no agreement has been reached between the companies.

"Cyprus and Israel share the common vision of fully exploiting the potential of the natural gas reserves of the eastern Mediterranean, thus diversifying the sources and routes of energy to Europe," said Pilides.

Israel and Cyprus signed an agreement to set the border between their exclusive economic waters in 2010. But no agreement has been signed to arrange the commercial development of the gas reservoirs.

It is estimated the Israeli side of Aphrodite-Yishai has 10 billion to 12 billion cubic metres of natural gas, less than the Leviathan gas field, which has an estimated 605 bcm.

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