ECONOMY

Greek-Cypriot-Israeli ?energy axis?

Greece, Cyprus and Israel agreed on Wednesday to deepen their energy cooperation, but stopped short of signing a memorandum to seal their agreement.

The discovery of considerable reserves of hydrocarbons in the Israeli and Cypriot exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean and estimates of more reserves in Greece have brought the three countries closer together. Israel?s Energy Minister Uzi Landau spoke of ?an axis of Greece, Cyprus and Israel and possibly more countries which will offer an anchor of stability.? He was addressing an energy conference in Athens organized by The Economist.

The three countries? energy ministers agreed yesterday to cooperate for the creation of a ?third option? for the supply of Europe?s mature markets with natural gas originating from the reserves in the southeastern Mediterranean, according to the Greek minister, Giorgos Papaconstantinou. He stressed that by the end of the year or the start of 2013 the drilling will have started in Greece too.

Cyprus?s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Neoklis Sylikiotis, who is also responsible for energy, said the three countries could also share electricity produced through the use of natural gas before exports of the fuel are possible. He proposed the use of undersea cables.

The fact that Sylikiotis is new to his ministry, having replaced Praxoulla Antoniadou earlier this month, was the reason Papaconstantinou cited for the non-signing of a memorandum of cooperation that had been previously announced. However, the signing?s postponement may also be linked to Nicosia?s intention to keep the door open to other companies and not just the US firm Noble, which located the hydrocarbon reserves. Sylikiotis made it clear that Nicosia wishes to have other companies and countries involved.

Delek Drilling Ltd Chairman Gideon Tadmor said the Israeli company will pursue any opportunity to explore for oil and natural gas in Greece. ?We believe the natural gas finds in Israel, which were duplicated in Cyprus, will also be duplicated in Greece,? Tadmor said at the same conference.