Is­rael-Le­banon oil and gas row

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - By Char­lie Char­alam­bous

Washington is tak­ing a more se­ri­ous ap­proach to the East Med en­ergy search and will not al­low Cyprus to be pushed around by Tur­key within the Repub­lic’s EEZ.

“We have been clear to Turk­ish of­fi­cials that ha­rass­ment of drilling ves­sels in the Cyprus EEZ is not some­thing we will al­low to go un­no­ticed or not speak up about,” said US As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for Euro­pean and Eurasian Af­fairs Wess Mitchell.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has warned for­eign en­ergy com­pa­nies not to “over­step the mark” in the Mediter­ranean af­ter Tur­key’s war­ships blocked an ENI drill­ship off­shore Cyprus on Fe­bru­ary 9.

Since that in­ci­dent Italy’s ENI, France’s To­tal and Amer­ica’s ExxonMo­bil have all said they are com­mit­ted to hon­our­ing their li­cense agree­ment with the Repub­lic of Cyprus.

US en­ergy gi­ant ExxonMo­bil – with Qatar Petroleum – is sched­uled to con­duct drilling off Cyprus in the sec­ond half of 2018.

Mitchell made the com­ments dur­ing a speech to the Her­itage Foun­da­tion where he out­lined the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s more fo­cused ap­proached to re­gional en­ergy se­cu­rity.

“I see the East Mediter­ranean as a south­ern ex­ten­sion of a lot of the prob­lems we are deal­ing with on the eastern fron­tier of Europe,” said Mitchell.

“There’s a lot at stake for Euro­pean en­ergy se­cu­rity and one as­pect of this is build­ing on the pre-ex­ist­ing foun­da­tion of very strong counter ter­ror­ism co­op­er­a­tion with Cyprus,” he added.

The US of­fi­cial said the United States had to take the re­gion and de­vel­op­ments in the re­gion more se­ri­ously as a strate­gic area.

“In the same way we have to be more se­ri­ous about un­der­tak­ing that across the Eastern fron­tier,” said Mitchell.

He said Washington was also work­ing hard on build­ing up a po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with Ni­cosia on se­cu­rity, ‘Rus­sian dis­in­for­ma­tion’ and Rus­sia money on Cyprus.

“It’s an area that needs to be cul­ti­vated and we’ve made a lot of progress in do­ing that.”

Turn­ing the East Med into an en­ergy hub also in­volves get­ting neigh­bours such as Is­rael and Le­banon to re­solve their dis­putes over mar­itime de­mar­ca­tion.

New ideas pro­posed in US back-chan­nel me­di­a­tion of an Is­raeli-Le­banese mar­itime dis­pute over oil and gas ex­plo­ration raise the prospect of a par­tial deal this year.

Is­rael launched the East Med gas bonanza al­most a decade ago with the dis­cov­ery of two huge gas fields.

Oth­ers were found in Egypt and Cyprus, and com­pa­nies are now ex­plor­ing Le­banese wa­ters as well.

One of the Le­banese blocks be­ing ex­plored, bor­ders Is­rael’s mar­itime zone and con­tains wa­ters claimed by both coun­tries.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.