Cyprus Minister of Commerce holds a series of meetings in Israel Print

Nicosia, Jan 24, 2012 (CNA)

Cyprus Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Praxoula Antoniadou held on Tuesday a series of meetings in Israel with a number of Ministers and officials from the Israeli government. During those meetings she discussed a number of important issues including commerce, tourism, energy, research and technology.

The Cypriot delegation also held a meeting in the Israeli Foreign Ministry with the Deputy Secretary of the Government Gaby Golan and the Deputy Director General on Financial Affairs of the Foreign Ministry Iirit Ben-Abba. During that meeting, the two sides discussed issues related with the forthcoming visit of Israeli Prime Minister to Cyprus. Antoniadou also met with the Minister of Transports, National Infrastructure and Road Safety Israel Katz. During that meeting, the two Ministers discussed the way the sector of transportation could enhance tourism in the two countries.

Minister Antoniadou attended a working lunch, hosted by Minister of Energy and Water Resources Uzi Landau. In the afternoon, Commerce Minister addressed a Business Forum coorganised in Tel Aviv by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism of Cyprus and the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce.Antoniadou said that the Republic of Cyprus has recently decided to proceed to the 2nd round of licensing for the exploration of hydrocarbons in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and all applications by interested persons may be submitted within 90 days of the date of publication of the notice in the Official Journal of the European Union.Commerce Minister said the criteria on which evaluation of applicants will be made are explicit and will be simultaneously published in the official journal.

According to the Minister, they primarily include the technical and financial capability of the applicants and the financial consideration that the applicant will be offering to obtain the license; without prejudice to the provisions of the directive regarding national security. Antoniadou also noted that the Government is in the process of defining long term strategic planning in the area of hydrocarbons and hence of examining the type of infrastructure to be developed and technology to be used with reference to both bringing natural gas onshore Cyprus for use in the local market, as well as to exporting excess supplies abroad.

She underlined that the discovery of hydrocarbons in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean , places the region in a potential position of contributing to the enhancement of the energy security of Europe. "More specifically, Cyprus and its neighbours will be in a position to contribute to the energy security of Europe through the provision of additional sources of energy and through possible participation in new energy infrastructure linking Europe to sources of energy, as this infrastructure is envisaged in the relevant proposed regulation", she added.

Cypriot Minister also referred to the opportunities for investment in the region, noting however that the interested countries should keep looking beyond the energy sector, so that their economies remain diversified. In her address, Antoniadou also referred to the Cyprus problem and the benefits for both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots."With regard to the benefits that will accrue to the Cypriots once hydrocarbons start to be exploited, I would like to reiterate the words of President Christofias that the Turkish Cypriots are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and as such they can enjoy within the framework of a reunited homeland the benefits of any natural wealth that Cyprus has", she said.

She went on to say that "the President furthermore indicated that the exploitation of natural gas reserves in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus can potentially motivate the attainment of a solution to the Cyprus problem soon, so that all the Cypriot people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, can benefit from any positive development"."The President furthermore added that Turkey has a lot to benefit from the solution of the Cyprus problem, since the solution will lead to the normalization of relations with Turkey, to cooperation between the two countries and to the conclusion of agreements between the two in various areas, including in the energy sector", she underlined.

Antoniadou also stressed that Turkey has a "golden opportunity" to prove itself to be a true peacemaker in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean, by respecting the sovereignty rights of all EUmember states, through both words and actions; and by truly contributing to the success of the peace process with reference to Cyprus through the encouragement of the Turkish Cypriot leadership to work for an agreed solution of the Cyprus problem, that will be reunifying Cyprus on the basis of the commonly agreed basis of a bizonal, bicommunal Federation with political equality as this is defined in relevant UN resolutions. "A bright horizon of peace, cooperation and economic growth will then open for the whole area of the Eastern Mediterranean to the benefit not only of the countries and peoples of the area but also to the benefit of our wider European family", she concluded.

Cyprus President Demetris Chistofias announced on December 28, 2011, that exploratory drilling carried out by Huston-based Noble Energy in block 12 of the island's Exclusive Economic Zone revealed a gross mean average of 7 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas, describing the discovery as ''a historic development.'' Cyprus granted in October 2008 the exploration license for block 12 to US Noble, which began exploratory drilling on September 18.Turkey whose troops occupy Cyprus' northern part since they invaded in 1974 does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus. Following a decision by Nicosia to begin natural gas and oil exploration in its exclusive economic zone, Ankara has signed an illegal agreement with the Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus to delineate what it calls continental shelf. The government of Cyprus has protested to the UN and the EU Turkey's moves, saying it has a sovereign right to exploit its natural resources, pointing out that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will benefit from any benefits that may come from oil drilling. Cyprus has signed an agreement to delineate the Exclusive Economic Zone with Egypt and Israel with a view to exploit any possible natural gas and oil reserves in its EEZ. A similar agreement has been signed with Lebanon but the Lebanese Parliament has not yet ratified it. UN-backed talks for a settlement to the Cyprus problem began on September 2008.