Developments on the horizon for the natural gas to Egypt, while political controversy continues
by Michalis Michael
Despite what is happening in the Cypriot EEZ with Turkey’s unlawful behaviour and its intention to drill, the Republic of Cyprus continues its energy planning and this is the message it wants to give to Ankara. At the same time, Cyprus moves on the diplomatic front and background, looking for ways to react with legal and political means. On the purely energy issues, it seems that the partnership Total-Eni, between the French and the Italian company has been secured, with main field of action the plot 7, and this cooperation is not unlikely to extend to other plots of the EEZ, according to sources. Awaiting the final announcements in the following period, discussions are being held on many levels, while the technocratic discussions are also in progress, stated the same sources.
As can be seen, the consolidation of the relationship and presence of the two companies in Cyprus, with Eni already having been harassed during its works in plot 3, sends clear messages to Turkey. This synergy comes after the Ministry of Energy announced on 26 November 2018 that during the application processes for the Hydrocarbon Research License for Research plot 7 within the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, an application was received by the joint venture Total E&P Cyprus B.V./Eni Cyprus Limited.
These moves were indirectly confirmed by a senior official in the previous 24 hours in Nicosia, who gave the implication that developments are expected in connection with the implementation of the Republic of Cyprus’s energy plan. In this context, the same official “showed” that previously the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides had contact with the French capital on a political level, and also with Vice-Director of North Africa and Middle East of the French multinational oil and natural gas company TOTAL, Elias Kassis, with whom he discussed the company’s future plans in the Cypriot EEZ, both in relation to geotechnical objectives and new plots in the Republic of Cyprus’s EEZ.
The gas from Cyprus to Egypt
Parallel are the developments regarding the “Aphrodite” deposit. The information says that its transfer to Egypt had been secured, with Noble Energy, Shell and Delek in agreement, so that the gas will reach the two Egyptian terminals. Concerning this matter, there is no comprehensive information regarding the diplomatic background, but the movements of the Republic are confirmed indirectly by sources.
“I can say we have reached a conclusion on most matters. There are two legal points that I hope will be clarified this week. Beyond that, the development and production plan should be agreed upon at the same time as the proportional allocation contract. The development and production plan is basically the text that will lead us, if agreed upon by us, to a license for the joint venture. From then on, the way is open for natural gas to be directed to the Egyptian terminals and from there to the European markets”, they emphasized about the issue.
The battle of diplomacy
And while the aforementioned developments are ongoing, everyone’s eyes are about 60km offshore Paphos, where “Fatih” has been immobilized and Turkish ships, which until a few days ago had other names and now have been renamed, accompany the Turkish drillship. Siem Luisa is now presented by Turkey as Korkut, Siem Sophie as Sancar and Siem Sasha as Altan.
Nicosia is moving strongly in the diplomatic front and background, wanting to take advantage of all the political and legal weapons at its disposal. However, this is not easy, since the main aim is on the one hand to issue international arrest warrants for the members and crews involved in the drilling but, on the other hand, there is a strong intention from the EU to apply sanctions to Ankara. There is no confirmation for this in the foreground, but the political pressure within the Republic of Cyprus is great and the government’s desire is to show that not only is there security in the country because it belongs to the EU but also that tough measures can be taken. However, in order to make such a thing a reality, a lot still has to be done and thus no such development is expected before the next European Council meeting at the end of the month or the next one in early June.
The Cypriot parties at the same time attack the government and the ruling party about Turkey’s behaviour, with the issue now well introduced on the pre-election agenda. The position of the Democratic Rally is that Cyprus is being attacked and that no rhetoric that is aimed at providing party benefits is of importance. On the other hand, AKEL believes that President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades did not make the right moves in order to fully shield the country’s EEZ, while they also blame him for the lack of progress in the Cyprus issue, which could have had a deterrent effect on Ankara./ibna