Israel and Cyprus announced Monday that they have made “substantial” progress in resolving a long-running dispute over an offshore natural gas resource and that they are dedicated to reaching an agreement soon as Europe seeks new energy sources.
Cyprus Energy Minister Natasa Pilides and her Israeli counterpart Karine Elharrar met in Nicosia, promising to work toward a “fair and speedy resolution.”
Israel argues that a section of Cyprus’ Aphrodite deposit, estimated to contain 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, belongs within its nearby Ishai field, along an offshore demarcation line separating the two countries economic zones.
Negotiations have dragged on for several years, but Europe’s need to wean itself off Russian energy sources since the Ukraine war appears to have given the negotiations a new sense of urgency.
Russia has reduced the natural gas supply to Europe, causing prices to rise.
“Given the global energy crisis and Europe’s growing need for natural gas, I believe it is in all parties’ best interests to expedite a rapid, transparent, and equitable resolution,” Elharrar said in a joint statement.
“Our mutual trust and the continuation of beneficial cooperation in numerous domains are critical for both sides.”
Pilides stated that the parties have made “great progress” in fleshing out a roadmap that would be followed by an expert designated by both countries to hammer out a compromise accord, adding that conversations will continue in the coming weeks.
With partners Shell and Israeli NewMed Energy, Chevron owns the drilling rights to the Aphrodite field and has stated that a development plan for the deposit will be completed by the end of the year.
Another well will be dug in the coming months to obtain further information on the deposit’s size.
Pilides stated last month that one of the four development alternatives under consideration is processing natural gas at facilities in Idku, Egypt.
Prospects for the Aphrodite field and other gas resources discovered off the coast of Cyprus were boosted after the European Union decided that natural gas may serve as a bridge fuel until 2050 as part of the bloc’s shift to greener energy.
Environmental organizations have filed legal challenges, accusing the EU of undermining its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.