NICOSIA – Agence France-Presse
Cyprus Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis (L), John Tomich (C) Country manager Noble Energy and Gideon Tadmor (R) President and Chief Executive Delek Energy seen during the signing ceremony in Nicosia, Cyprus, 11 February 2013, in which Israel Delek companies assumed a 30 per cent stake in rights to a Cypriot offshore area where U.S. based Noble Energy discovered natural gas. EPA photo
Israeli firms Delek and Anver signed an agreement on Monday to acquire a 30 percent stake in exploration rights for gas and oil off Greek
Cyprus's southern shore carried out by US
company Noble Energy.
Commerce Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis told reporters that the signing provided a "new era of Cyprus-Israeli strategic cooperation which includes economic and political dimensions".
Noble Energy Inc was the first to drill when awarded Block 12 after Greek
Cyprus launched its energy search in 2007. In December 2011, Noble said it had discovered gas reserves of up to 8 trillion cubic feet (226.5 billion cubic metres), with an estimated value of 100 billion euros.
This would satisfy domestic needs for decades and could enable Greek
Cyprus to become a regional player by exporting gas to Europe
Delek Drilling and Anver Oil and Gas Exploration own majority rights in Israel's own large gas finds in the nearby Leviathan and Tamar fields.
The latest deal move comes less than a week after Greek
Cyprus signed an agreement with French
energy giant Total to conduct exploratory drilling for gas and oil in two blocks off its southern shore.
Greek Cyprus aspires to become a regional energy hub with the prospect of oil as well as natural gas being tapped beneath the sea bed.
Total signed a deal to exploit blocks 10 and 11 that are adjacent to a large natural gas find in block 12 and said it seeks to proceed in drilling for oil as well as gas reserves.
Turkey has protested strongly against Nicosia's energy search, branding it illegal and beginning its own exploratory drilling off the breakaway north of the island.
Ankara has warned that companies involved in the Greek
Cyprus process could be shut out of Turkey's energy investment.
Sylikiotis said that having countries such as France, the United States, Israel
and Italy involved in the island's hydrocarbon exploration acted as a "political shield" against Turkish threats.
It is estimated that there could be around 60 trillion cubic feet of gas lying in the 13 blocks that make up Greek
Cyprus's 51,000 square kilometre (20,000 square mile) exclusive economic zone.
Greek Cyprus is banking on its energy bonanza to eventually rescue it from recession as it seeks a European Union
bailout. It plans to bring gas onshore in 2018 and to build a liquefied natural gas plant.