Greece and Cyprus ready to cooperate on gas

Following a meeting in Athens, Prime Minister George Papandreou and Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias have suggested that the two countries could cooperate on the exploitation of what are thought to be substantial reserves of natural gas.

«Greece and Cyprus have converging interests, including in the energy sector,» Papandreou told journalists. «As in all matters, we are coordinating closely on the issue of delineating sea zones.

«A lot is being written about what there is underground but we will have to wait for more details on this and any developments will follow the process that has been set up between Greece and Cyprus.»

Solon Kassinis, the head of the energy department at Cyprus’s Commerce Ministry, said last month that there are indications of some 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposits beneath the seabed in the island’s waters near Israel’s giant Tamar and Leviathan gas fields.

«The facts have changed dramatically? and Cyprus could begin exploiting its natural gas reserves in the area in three to five years, much sooner than anticipated or planned,» said Kassinis, who produced a study last month that reportedly urged the Cypriot government to concentrate on exploiting the country’s own natural resources rather than a possible long-term deal to import liquefied natural gas.

However, Turkey objects to Nicosia exploring in Cyprus’s 51,000-square kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which lies south of the island.

Christofias told reporters after his meeting with Papandreou that Cypriots and Greeks had to be careful not to get carried away with the idea of tapping into gas reserves.

«We are coordinating daily [with Greece] but I want to pause for a moment to stress the seriousness with which we should approach the issue because we have a tendency to overreact, which is one of our characteristics,» said the Cypriot president.

«We have to be sure about what [reserves] exist and we have to be sure about the actions that we may take.»

Papandreou and Christofias also discussed the contents of the latter’s talks in Geneva last week with Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. In addition, they called on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to adopt a constructive stance toward reunification talks.

The Cypriot president expressed hope that a solution to the island’s division that would be acceptable to both sides would be found by the end of the year.

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