Cyprus discovers gas at sea. Turkey and Egypt step forward
The U.S. Company Nobel Energy has found a deposit of five thousand to eight thousand billion cubic meters southeast of the island. The Greek Cypriot president calls it a "historic" event. Meanwhile, Turkey gives the green light to the Russian-Italian South Stream pipeline to carry Russian gas to Europe.
Nicosia (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Cypriot government has announced the discovery of natural gas reserves off its coast, to the south east, which could range from five to eight thousand billion cubic meters. Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias said that the reserve was found by the U.S. company Nobel Energy, the same which in 2007 won the exploration concession off the coast of Haifa, Israel; a successful exploration which yielded the discovery of 120 thousand billion cubic meters. The discovery is the first of its kind in Cyprus, and could put an end to imports of natural gas for the country. The President has called the event "historic", while the Commerce Minister, Parxoulla Antoniadou, has declared that the gas field can satisfy the production of electricity on the island for 210 years. (5/10/2011 Turkey, Israel, Greece and Russia mobilising over Cyprus gas).

But the announcement, confirmed by Noble Energy, also opens up a difficult diplomatic can of worms. In fact, both Turkey and Egypt are moving to not fall behind in the race for the natural resources of the eastern Mediterranean. Israel has already established an agreement with its territorial waters with Cyprus. But the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has not yet done so. "Egypt, Cyprus and Turkey are negotiating the limits of their maritime economic zones, since the limits of 200 miles of their respective territorial areas overlap with each other," said former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Abdallah al- Ashaal. Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot government and in September sent a ship to explore the sea, accompanied by warships and combat aircraft in the area close to where Noble Energy was drilling. Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974, and Ankara argues that development projects must await the settlement of the island's political status. But the Greek Cypriot President has states that “Cyprus enters the energy map of Europe with a view to contributing substantially to the EU's energy security."

In the meantime, Turkey has given the green light to Russia to build a pipeline to bring Russian natural gas to European markets through Turkish territorial waters of the Black Sea, a project called South Stream. This way Moscow’s pipeline will avoid passing through Ukraine, which has given rise to tensions and problems in the recent past. In return, Russia has already decided to lower the price of natural gas sold to Turkey. The announcement was made by the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Taner Yıldız. The South Stream project was initiated by the Russian company Gazprom and Eni in 2007, which in 2008 created a joint company for the project, with a minority of Germany and France, as well as Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Hungary . South Stream will carry up to 63 billion cubic meters of gas once operative, which is expected in 2015.