NICOSIA (Cyprusnewsreport)—Israeli President Shimon Peres and his delegation signed four agreements with the Republic of Cyprus Thursady, including one on energy cooperation.
“The two countries have waited for a long time for natural gas and now we can benefit,” said Peres. As well as the agreement on energy, an inter-governmental agreement on research and development, cooperation agreement in telecommunications and information technology and cooperation in the field of antiquities were signed.
The Premier is being heavily guarded by his own security and Cyprus police, including a helicopter unit, during his two-day state visit to Cyprus.
Since signing a maritime border agreement in December 2010, Cyprus and Israel have been building more cooperation on developing their undersea hydrocarbon industries. Cyprus is set to open a new round of bids for offshore undersea exploration concessions by the end of the year and perhaps even sooner. US company Noble Energy, which works closely with Israeli company DELEK, has expressed an interest in buying more concessions to explore for undersea hydrocarbons. Peres’ visit is linked to these developments, say analysts.
Income from allowing international companies to explore for hydrocarbons is included in the 2012 Budget and is viewed as a key way to finance the state now that it has lost access to international capital markets. The prospects of a new gas and oil industry in the region have led to a number of bilateral agreements between Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Egypt.
But there are risks to the burgeoning industry. As Cyprus-Israel cooperation grows, Turkey-Israel relations are on the wane after the deaths of nine Turkish-origin activists who were killed en-route to taking humanitarian aid to Gaza in 2010. Moreover, Turkey is determined to interfere with the government’s sovereign rights and has repeatedly threatened to start exploring in Cyprus waters. Ankara has already sent three seismic research ships to the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone on the basis that the government does not represent the Turkish Cypriots. The vessels are accompanied by Turkish warships as it beefs up its naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey’s position has been condemned by the EU, Russia, and Greece, while the US and UK have both issued statements supporting Cyprus’ right to exploit its own offshore resources. Israel has taken more active steps to counter Turkey’s threats, and most recently sent six.