Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hot summer for gas - IN CYPRUS / CYPRUS WEEKLY

April 23, 2017
George Telaveris

While Cyprus waits for Total to start exploratory drilling for natural gas in offshore Block 11 in July, Israel is close to selling natural gas to Turkey, risking a flare-up over the right to send gas to Turkey through the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Israel energy minister Yuval Steinitz told Bloomberg in March that a deal between Israel and Turkey was expected in the coming months.

“The purpose is to conclude by this summer a government-to-government agreement on a gas pipeline stretching from Israel to Turkey, in order to export natural gas from Israel and also the vicinity, to Turkey,” Steinitz said.
Last week an unnamed Turkish official was reported by Bloomberg to have said that a pipeline could be built through Cyprus’ economic waters without Cypriot consent.

This week Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides countered this claim by saying, “A pipeline from the EEZ of Cyprus cannot pass without the permission of Nicosia”.

However, the issue is not crystal clear. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows third countries to pass pipelines through another country’s EEZ, but the country concerned needs to be consulted on the course of the pipeline.

In an interview with the Cyprus Mail last July, energy minister George Lakkotrypis admitted that while “a country cannot veto such a project, it is clearly stated that a state has to give its consent about the route of the pipeline”.

Relations between Cyprus and Israel have grown close in recent years, with a raft of bilateral agreements and growing cooperation, therefore it is uncertain how things would play out if the pipeline went ahead without the Cyprus government’s consent.

While pursuing the Turkey pipeline, Israel is also hedging its bets with the East Med pipeline that would run from Israel to Cyprus, Greece and Italy.

On April 3, Italy, Israel, Cyprus and Greece signed a memorandum for setting a target date of 2025 for completion of the East Med pipeline.

The promoters of the planned 2,000km pipeline estimate that the pipeline would cost €5 billion to take to Greece and another €1bn to take it to Italy.