Cyprus, Lebanon start talks on East Med exploration

Israeli UAE diplomatic relations
What is at stake in the East Med as the UAE and Israel agree to diplomatic relations. Source: Cyprus Mail

Cyprus and Lebanon agreed to start negotiations on the exploitation of hydrocarbon reserves straddling the median line between their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ), the Cyprus Mail reported.

Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides, and Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, held talks in Beirut on Thursday with Lebanon’s Foreign and Energy Ministers, Gebran Bassil and Nada Boustani, respectively, according to an official statement

Among others, the four ministers discussed issues concerning the cooperation between Cyprus and Lebanon in the energy and energy security sectors in the broader region of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking after the meeting, Christodoulides said they reviewed bilateral relations and looked into ways to broaden and deepen them further and had an in-depth, results-oriented discussion on energy matters.

The Cypriot foreign minister they also reaffirmed support of the sovereign right to explore and exploit their natural resources, located in the respective maritime areas, in line with international law and in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both countries are signatories.

Cyprus respects and supports the sovereign rights and the jurisdiction of all countries in the region, including Lebanon, within their maritime zones, on the basis of international law, he added.

Christodoulides said they agreed on the need to use the momentum following energy developments in the region as a catalyst to enhance bilateral cooperation further.

In this respect, he said, they agreed to immediately commence talks to conclude a bilateral framework agreement regarding the development of hydrocarbon reserves extending in both sides of the median line between their respective EEZs.

According to the minister, such an agreement would send a strong message of cooperation between the two countries and provide companies wishing to invest in the exploration of hydrocarbons in the area with the necessary legal security.

The two countries signed an EEZ delineation agreement in 2007 but Lebanon has yet to ratify it.

Christodoulides said the two sides agreed to start discussions to conclude an agreement for the protection of underwater cultural heritage from illegal excavations, within their jurisdiction.

A statement from the Lebanese Energy Ministry reported that the team preparing the bilateral framework agreement would release an initial report in June, and the agreement would “hopefully” be signed by the two countries in September.

The countries additionally agreed to cooperate on the related technical and geological matters and to share expertise on their respective oil and gas legislation.

Lakkotrypis, the Cypriot energy minister, said the two countries also agreed to search for markets for the gas that could potentially be extracted, the Foreign Ministry statement said. After a market is found, the countries will look to prepare an agreement for cross-border infrastructure projects to transport and export natural gas. Christodoulides added that his country “will not participate in any project that violates Lebanon’s rights.”