Israel Wants Stake in Cyprus’ Aphrodite Gas Find Field

FILE - From left, Italian ambassador in Cyprus Andrea Cvallari, Israel's Energy minister Yuval Steinitz, Greece's Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and Cyprus' energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis signature their agreement after their talks at "Filoxenia" conference center in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Already seeking partnership to link their electric grids and build a gas pipeline to mainland Europe, Israel and Cyprus now find themselves at odds over the Aphrodite gas field that stretches off the island into the top of Israel’s maritime zone.

Even though it involves 7-10 billion cubic meters worth almost $1.5 billion, Israel officials estimated, that’s still less than 10 percent of the field’s total reserves and a fraction of what’s already been found in Israeli waters.

But Israeli officials said they won’t back off on demands to be involved in the whole Aphrodite development, the news agency Reuters said in a report on the dispute over sovereignty and sharing that indicated it could delay multi-billion plans to turn the eastern Mediterranean into a major energy hub.

Complicating matters is insistence by Turkey, which has occupied the northern third of Cyprus since an unlawful 1974 invasion, with its demands to take part in the licensing of foreign companies already set to drill off the island for more gas and oil.

Turkish warships have tried to block the companies from reaching the fields and relations with Israel have already been strained, even before Israel’s involvement in Aphrodite, which was discovered in 2011.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz were to go to Cyprus on May 10 to push plans for a joint electric grid and build a gas pipeline to supply the rest of the European Union with supplies.

are flying to Cyprus on Tuesday to spur plans to join the two countries’ electricity grids and construct a pipeline to link newly found gas fields to mainland Europe.

Companies operating on the Israeli side are ready for legal action in case Aphrodite is developed without them. “I assume we will find a solution in good spirit so we can keep cooperating on bigger, more important, things,” Steinitz told Reuters.

“The government of Israel cannot give up, not even as a gesture of friendship, on its territories or its natural resources,” Steinitz said, adding that the governments have asked the private companies to come to terms somehow.

“If they don’t reach an understanding, then we will ask a professional arbiter or a professional group … to examine the findings from both sides and decide on the proper division,” he said.
Aphrodite is smaller than two huge gas fields, Tamar and Leviathan, discovered in Israel around the same time, but it was a major discovery for Cyprus.

Developing it are Royal Dutch Shell , Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Drilling . They are looking to sell the gas domestically and abroad, with a focus on Egypt, where Shell has a liquefaction plant.

The field is also meant to be a link in the 2,000 km pipeline being planned by IGI Poseidon, a joint venture between Greece’s natural gas firm DEPA and Italian energy group Edison, to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to western Greece.

A final investment decision on the pipeline, with an expected price tag of up to 6 billion euros ($7.2 billion), could come next year.