Egypt, Cyprus seek cooperation in drilling for offshore oil, gas
Egypt's Economy Minister Yussef Boutros-Ghali is to visit Cyprus in April to galvanise joint interests in exploiting oil and natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, a government minister said Tuesday.
Nicosia has remained uncharacteristically tight-lipped on the issue but has grudgingly conceded that it is in contact with neighbours Egypt to agree on ways of tapping the potential underneath the seabed.
"I have invited the Egyptian Economy Minister to Cyprus in April and although there is no set agenda in all probability we will be talking about oil exploration ... I can't say more than that," Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis told AFP.
He said Boutros-Ghali will make a three-day official visit. The Cypriot minister refrained from commenting on how far the government has gone in looking for oil and gas deposits.
But he confirmed that such cooperation, in the form of joint ventures, was discussed when he met Egyptian Oil Minister Sameh Fahmi in Cairo last month.
"We are pursuing the matter because other countries are doing so with exploration and exploitation but we are treating the issue as confidential," Rolandis said.
The prospect of huge oil reserves off the island's shores has prompted Cyprus to seek delineation of its continental shelf to ward off neighbouring countries encroaching on rich pickings, the Cyprus Weekly reported in its current edition.
According to the newspaper, the government has maintained a hush-hush approach over concerns that Britain, through its two Sovereign Bases located near coastal areas, and Turkey, which has occupied a third of the island since 1974, are just as keen to reap the rewards of an oil bonanza.
However, Britain is restricted by international treaties to using the base areas solely for military and not commercial purposes.
With Cyprus territorial waters extending up to 200 miles (320 kilometers) off its shores, it is not far from natural gas prospecting off Egypt's coast and discoveries of deposits off Gaza, say experts.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse 2001.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)