CYPRUS TO LICENSE OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS SEARCH
- Published:05 Ocak 2011, Çarşamba
- Updated:19 Ocak 2011, Çarşamba
A top Cyprus energy official said Tuesday that the Mediterranean island will go ahead with a second licensing round for offshore oil and gas exploration later this year in a move that could stoke tensions with Turkey.
Energy Service Director Solon Kassinis said in an e-mail that the licensing round "is anticipated to be announced within the second half of 2011."
The island's 51,000-square-kilometer (17,000-square-mile) exploration area off its southern coast is divided into 13 blocks. Kassinis said two blocks on the easternmost edge of the exploration area that were left out of the first licensing round in 2007 will be included in the second one.
Cyprus has licensed U.S. firm Noble Energy to explore an 800,000-acre (1,250-square-mile) block bordering Israeli waters where massive gas fields have been found under the seabed, including one thought to hold up to 16 trillion cubic feet (450 billion cubic meters) of gas.
There are currently no estimates on gas reserves inside the Cypriot zone because drilling has yet to begin.
Kassinis said Noble — which is part of a consortium developing the Israeli fields — "is obliged to proceed" with the first exploratory well inside its Cypriot block between Oct. 2011-Oct.2013.
The search for hydrocarbons in the east Mediterranean could raise tensions in the politically sensitive region.
Turkey last month slammed a maritime border accord between Cyprus and Israel, saying it was "null and void" because it disregards the rights and jurisdiction of Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically split island.
Cyprus was divided into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. Turkey only recognizes the north where it maintains 35,000 troops.
Talks aimed at reunifying the island have produced only limited progress since they began more than two years ago.
Turkey said countries in the region should not back moves "that would have a negative impact on the comprehensive settlement negotiations."
Cyprus government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou rebuffed the criticism, saying the search for oil and gas is the island's sovereign right and no other country's business.
Cyprus has maritime border agreements with Egypt and Lebanon, but the Lebanese parliament has yet to ratify the deal.