Greek Cyprus, Israel sign deal demarcating sea borders
Greek Cyprus and Israel signed an accord Friday demarcating their maritime borders to facilitate a search for mineral deposits in the east Mediterranean, where huge natural gas reserves have been discovered.
Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou and Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau signed the deal in the island’s capital. No statements were made after the signing.
Greek Cyprus has similar agreements with Egypt and Lebanon, but the Lebanese parliament has yet to ratify the deal.
Turkey strongly objects to any Greek Cypriot search for oil and gas inside the island’s 51,000 square-kilometer exclusive economic zone off its southern coast, saying it also has rights and interests in the area.
Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey intervened in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Greek Cyprus has licensed U.S. firm Noble Energy to explore an 800,000-acre area bordering Israeli waters, where massive gas fields have been found under the seabed.
Two fields, Tamar and Dalit, discovered last year, are due to start producing in 2012, and experts say their estimated combined reserves of 5.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas can cover Israel’s energy needs for the next two decades.
Noble Energy is also part of a consortium developing the fields and predicted in June that Israel will also have enough gas to export to Europe and Asia from a third field — Leviathan, thought to hold up to 16 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Greek Cypriot Energy Service Director Solon Kassinis told The Associated Press in an email that there are currently no estimates on gas reserves inside the Greek Cypriot zone because drilling has yet to begin.
Noble has not said when drilling would start inside its Greek Cypriot block.
Kassinis said Greek Cyprus’ agreement with Israel “doesn’t conflict” with its deal with Lebanon.
Lebanese lawmakers have said that some of Israel’s recently discovered gas fields stretch into Lebanese territorial waters. Israel has denied the charge.
Hezbollah has threatened to use force to protect Lebanon’s natural wealth.
Meanwhile, Turkey is mulling starting oil and gas exploration off the island’s northern coast.
A senior Energy Ministry official has said that initial seismic research conducted in waters between Turkey’s southern Mediterranean port city of Mersin and Cyprus, 200 kilometers away, “has yielded certain data.”
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