After attending a workshop on energy issues in Nicosia and engaging in meetings with stakeholders in the UK, George Papanastasiou, the Minister of Energy, Trade, and Industry, is now embarking on a two-day working visit to Israel. During this visit, discussions with his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, will center around various aspects of energy cooperation, including hydrocarbons, electricity, and bilateral agreements. The purpose of the visit is to follow up on Christodoulides' recent official visit to Israel, during which the news of a pipeline from the Leviathan to Cyprus was announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu himself. However, subsequent developments have not lived up to the initial enthusiasm surrounding the project.
As per a statement released by the Energy Ministry, Papanastasiou is scheduled to hold a private meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, along with their respective expanded delegations. The primary focus of these meetings will be to explore the feasibility of utilizing Cyprus as an alternative route for transporting natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean, either for export to Europe or for domestic power generation purposes. Additionally, Cyprus and Israel will engage in negotiations to establish an initial framework for future transnational cooperation and partnerships in infrastructure construction. This includes discussions on potential gas transmission infrastructure, such as pipelines, as well as electrical interconnections through cables.
Furthermore, the discussions are expected to address the long-standing dispute regarding the sharing of the Aphrodite and Ishai fields. This dispute has endured multiple unsuccessful phases of discussion aimed at finding a resolution, which is crucial for the development of the Aphrodite field.
What to expect
Mr. Papanastasiou's visit to Israel is expected to address three key issues:
Firstly, it aims to determine whether Israel, despite the actions of the companies involved in the "Leviathan" project targeting Egypt, is genuinely interested in including Cyprus as an intermediate destination for exporting gas to Europe or Asian markets. This would allow Israel to diversify its options in the region.
Secondly, after eight years of negotiations that have hindered the development of the "Aphrodite" field, the visit seeks to assess if there is any progress in resolving the deadlock. Specifically, the focus will be on bridging the gap between a field-sharing agreement with "Issei" or exploring alternative options, such as the acquisition of the field by the "Aphrodite" consortium, in order to reach a resolution.
Lastly, it is worth noting that the formal significance of the EastMed pipeline as both an infrastructure project and a gas export route to the region has diminished. The visit will aim to gain clarity on the current status of the EastMed pipeline, which has taken a back seat in recent developments.
[This article was first published in Kathimerini's Oikonomiki edition and translated from its Greek original]