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Cyprus weighing gas pipeline with Israel

Decision comes as the island nation announces 'significant' new gas discovery which could boost its energy ambitions but stir tensions with Ankara
Drilling ship off the Cypriot coastal city of Larnaca during multinational exercise Nemesis 2021, on 3 November 2021 (AFP)

Cyprus is examining a plan which would pipe Israeli natural gas to the island nation, process it and export it by ship to Europe, amid an energy crunch compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Cyrpiot energy Minister Natasa Pilides told the Associated Press the government is considering a licensing request for the project from energy company Energean, as it waits to see how much gas Israel would be willing to export.

She added that exporting gas in its liquified form by ship is a better alternative than running a pipeline to Europe.

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“It’s lower cost, more technically feasible and provides a lot of flexibility in terms of the export routes via vessels,” she told The Associated Press.

“And also, it’s a good opportunity for us to have infrastructure that is close to home so ... if we want to utilise it for our own sources as well, then it will be an additional option," she said. "It’s certainly worth discussing with our licensees.”

Energy cooperation between Cyprus and Israel is likely to rile up Turkey, whose ties with Israel sank to historic lows under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

More recently, Erdogan has moved to patch up relations and expressed a desire for Turkey to serve as a transit point of Israeli gas to Europe.

Discovery off Cyprus

Separately, on Wednesday, energy companies announced the discovery of two to three trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas off the southwest coast of Cyprus.

The Cypriot government said the find "confirms the region's bright energy potential", calling it a "significant gas discovery”.

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The findings have the potential to revive talks about a shelved plan to run a pipeline connecting Israel, Cyprus and Greece that has laid dormant over cost and feasibility concerns.

Cyprus’ efforts to develop its energy resources have long been stymied by Turkey, which has asserted overlapping claims to the island nation's Exclusive Economic Zone through its continental shelf and northern Cyprus.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 after a failed coup attempted to unite the island with Greece. Since then, Cyprus has been divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus in the South and a Northern Turkish republic, recognised only by Ankara.

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