A gas field dispute between Cyprus and Israel over a tiny area headed into deep water this week after Nicosia and Chevron preannounced plans for Aphrodite despite a decade-long unresolved issue still pending between the two nations.
Last week Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides and a Chevron official met with House Speaker Annita Demetriou, who was briefed on development works for Aphrodite, a reservoir some 100 miles south of Limassol that stretches into Israel’s adjacent Yishai field.
Just days after the Cypriot government granted exploitation rights for the Aphrodite field in November 2019, the Israeli Energy Ministry cautioned Nicosia not to proceed with the gas development “until a settlement agreement is reached” between the two countries.
Cyprus kept moving forward with its unilateral development plans, with Pilides saying last year that she and her Israeli counterpart at the time, Yuval Steinitz, had agreed upon a framework for the companies involved to resolve pending issues on regulating rights on the Aphrodite and Yishai reservoirs.
The agreement came with a timeline and in February this year current Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar stepped in by giving companies in her country a month to settle the dispute, warning otherwise that the states would step in to put an end to it.
But after Pilides told Bloomberg this week “a realistic date for production” would be included in a Chevron presentation before the year was out, Israeli media suggested the hype did not sit well with Elharrar.
According to Cypriot website Reporter, which picked up a story published this week by Haaretz’s economy newsletter The Marker, anonymous government sources said Israeli officials were annoyed by Chevron and Nicosia’s announcement.
The publication cited ongoing discussions between Pilides and Elharrar, indicating negotiations based on a recently agreed framework had not been completed.
Chevron, seen as a glimmer of hope in Nicosia after it acquired Aphrodite stakes from Noble Energy, said it was acting in coordination with the Cypriot government and the firm’s obligations toward Nicosia. It is expected to present its final development plan for Aphrodite, located in Block 12 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, by year’s end, with date of production set in 2027.