Cyprus seeks amicable solution for maritime border zone


BEIRUT: Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said Tuesday that he would continue to seek an equitable solution for the maritime border zone dispute between the regional states once he becomes president of the European Union in four days.

During a regional conference on energy in Nicosia, Christofias admitted to the participants in a Q&A session that there are some complicated border disputes between countries sharing the maritime border zone, adding that these topics should be sorted out soon.

Lebanon insisted on redrawing the economic maritime border zone which it shares with Cyprus and Israel. The zone is supposed to have large quantities of natural gas.

Lebanon is demanding the U.N. oversee the demarcation of the maritime border zone in order to determine the country’s actual territorial borders.

The government has not yet issued a tender to explore oil and gas offshore.

Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil, one of the speakers at the one-day conference, told participants that Lebanon insists on rectifying the mistakes of the maritime demarcation and stressed that his country wants another demarcation that will win the approval of the government.

Bassil said that dozens of companies have bought geophysical data that contains information on the reserves off the Lebanese coast.

“We can proudly say, thanks to these findings, that there is high probability for the success of drilling and exploration,” Bassil said.

He added that Lebanon is determined to exercise its full rights over the entire maritime economic zone which belongs to Lebanon.

“We expect from our friends, the Cypriots, to make an extra effort to avoid the fatal technical mistake which occurred between Cyprus and Israel when the border zone between both countries was drawn,” the minister explained.

Leading energy expert and secretary-general of the World Energy Council Lebanon, Roudi Baroudi urged the countries with claims in the area to focus first on what could be done without exacerbating tensions and then on how disputes could be resolved peacefully

“None of the countries involved can afford to have their economic fortunes sunk by gunboat diplomacy,” Baroudi said on the sidelines of the event.

“The value of the energy deposits in question is nothing short of gargantuan, so there’s plenty to go around. Negotiating mechanisms for dispute resolution and joint development wouldn’t be easy, but the payoffs – for all concerned – would be enormous.”

Baroudi’s comments echoed his presentation to the forum, which stressed dialogue and cooperation as a means of maximizing benefit from the Levant Basin.

“At average prices for the current year, the deposits in question were recently estimated to hold $170 billion worth of oil and a staggering $1.9 trillion worth of gas. For perspective, the latter figure amounts to 13 percent of all the goods and services produced in the United States in 2010,” he said.

Baroudi has urged all parties to at least start defining their Exclusive Economic Zones, and place their trust in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice when it comes to adjudicating disputes over maritime boundaries.

Christofias said Cyprus’ role in the global energy map has been enhanced, following the discovery of natural gas in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone. International interest for the second Licensing Round has increased.

“A total of 33 applications from 15 companies [and] joint ventures from 14 countries, including France, the U.S., Russia, South Korea, Malaysia, Italy and Australia were finally submitted. As a consequence, new perspectives are opening up, giving new impetus to Cyprus’ role within the global energy system and the European energy market,” the Cypriot president said.

He added that the eastern Mediterranean Sea region could be transformed into an area of common borders and interests for everyone, offering prospects for peace, prosperity and progress in the wider area.

“At long last, we have the historic opportunity to work sincerely, constructively and in good faith for the benefit of our people,” Christofias said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 27, 2012, on page 5.

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Lebanon to take part in regional energy forum in Cyprus next week


BEIRUT: Lebanon will be one of the main participants in a major regional energy forum in Cyprus next week with a special emphasis on oil and gas exploration in the Middle East.

Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil will be one of the key speakers in the event to be held at Cyprus University on June 26.

Lebanon will start its first bidding round for offshore oil and natural gas exploration licenses this year after approving regulatory laws in January.

Meanwhile, Cyprus is expected to offer a second licensing round on some 12 offshore fields. Critics have suggested that Lebanon has been slow off the mark in becoming a regional player, let alone actually bidding for involvement.

Information company Gulf Intelligence, organizer of the Levant Energy Forum 2012, noted that an estimated 122 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas are in the Levant Basin Province in the eastern Mediterranean region, which includes the coastal areas off Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

“The Levant Basin also holds an estimated 1.7 billion barrels of undiscovered, recoverable oil. Noble Energy Inc. reported in December that it had made another natural gas discovery near Cyprus, building on a string of successes in the eastern Mediterranean. The oil-and-gas explorer and its partners have now made five discoveries in the greater Levant basin,” Gulf Intelligence said in a statement.

“The gas finds are estimated at 33 trillion cubic feet. The newest well offshore [from] Cyprus was drilled at a water depth of about 1.6 km, and about 5.5 km into the ocean floor. Noble said it could yield up to 8 trillion cubic feet of gas,” it added.

Noble, which is based in Houston, operates the well with a 70 percent working interest, and Delek Drilling LP and Avner Oil Exploration LP will each have 15 percent, subject to final approval by the government of Cyprus.

Cyprus’ President Demetris Christofias will be keynoting at the forum in addition to the country’s Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Minister Neoklis Sylikiotis

Moderating the event is Sean Evers, managing partner of Gulf Intelligence. Evers is a former correspondent for the Financial Times and Bloomberg, and founded Gulf Intelligence in 2009. The Dubai-based strategic communications and public affairs consultancy produces industry forums and roundtable discussion sessions globally.

Also speaking is Roudi Baroudi, the secretary-general World Energy Council Lebanon, leading energy expert and the CEO of Qatari-based Energy & Environment Holding.

Forum industry partners include Noble Energy, an independent energy company with a diverse portfolio of assets and a presence in 11 countries; Premier Oil plc, a FTSE 250 independent exploration and production company with interests in the North Sea, South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan regions; and Norman Broadbent, the U.K.-based consulting executive search firm.

The event is hosted by the University of Cyprus, which boasts six faculties and 21 departments offering a wide range of study programs.

According to energy experts, the thus-far untapped Levantine Basin is potentially comparable to other major reserves around the world.

For further information on the Levant Energy Forum:

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 23, 2012, on page 4.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::