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Economy

Cyprus, Israel Agree to Settle Dispute Over Sea Gas Reserves

NICOSIA — At an impasse for nine years, Cyprus and Israel said they would move to end a battle over who has rights in the East Mediterranean for gas reserves that cut across their maritime borders.

There wasn't a resolution, only an agreement to try to find out, essentially extending the deadlock but with both sides they were satisfied that something can be worked out.

Development of the Aphrodite gas field in Cypriot waters, found in 2011, has been held up because a small part of it stretches into Israel’s maritime zone and another gasfield there.

Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said she and Israel's Energy Minister  Yuval Steinitz agreed upon a framework to resolve the issue, and guidelines would be passed on to the companies involved in the project, said Reuters.

“The framework will be set out in a joint letter which is being prepared. We are both very satisfied we are now at this point after nine years of discussion,” Pilides told reporters after meeting Steinitz on the island.

“Nothing is certain, but there is a good chance that this might lead us to a solution of this little but significant obstacle in the wonderful relations and cooperation between Cyprus and Israel on energy and on many other issues,”Steinitz said, reported the Cyprus News Agency.

Cyprus had in 2019 signed a 25-year concession with Noble Energy, Shell and Delek Drilling for exploitation of the Aphrodite field while Israel had maintained an agreement was required before work started because part of Aphrodite overlapped on to the Israeli side.

Companies on the Cypriot side would enter talks with those on the Israeli side to resolve how the Israeli companies would be compensated, Steinitz’s office said in a statement, Reuters reported.

If the companies did not reach agreement within 180 days it would be referred to an international expert who would try to resolve it for another 180 days, or almost another year of uncertainty.

If nothing's resolved both countries would go back to square one and start over, indicating no end in sight for some time while they said there almost was.

The Aphrodite field holds an estimated 4.1 trillion cubic feet of gas. At stake was about 10% of the deposit, which is a fraction of the gas already discovered in Israel, the news agency also aid.

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