Egypt, Syria see Cyprus as conduit for selling gas to EU: Cypriot minister
Egypt and Syria see future EU member Cyprus as an energy hub to supply Europe with their natural gas cheaply, Cypriot Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis said Saturday October 20.
"The matter needs to be studied, and feedback from Brussels is also needed, but its an issue to which both Egypt and Syria have expressed great interest," Rolandis told a news conference here on returning from top-level talks in Cairo on Friday.
Rolandis said Syrian natural gas supplied to Cyprus through a planned underwater pipeline could be liquefied locally and shipped to EU countries duty-free once the island joins the European Union.
"A five to seven percent duty would have to be paid by these countries (Egypt and Syria) if liquefied natural gas were to be exported directly to the EU," said Rolandis. "But if the liquefied natural gas were to be exported from Cyprus, there would be no duty imposed, resulting in tremendous savings given the huge quantities involved."
Rolandis said Egypt’s Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy and Syrian Energy Minister Mohamad Jamal were intrigued by the idea. According to Egyptian experts, there are oil deposits situated 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) beneath the sea between Egypt and Cyprus.
Rolandis said another round of talks has been scheduled for either November or December in Damascus, with a further one in Cyprus early next year. The talks will aim to thrash out economic exclusion zones before exploitation can begin. The prospect of huge oil and gas reserves close to Cyprus has prompted the government to seek delineation of its continental shelf for exploitation.
Demarcating an economic exclusion zone -- to keep neighboring countries from encroaching on lucrative resources -- will also involve Israel. Construction of the $250 million pipeline, which would take four years to complete, will start in Egypt and involve Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The commerce minister hopes to wrap up an agreement on exploiting oil deposits by the end of the year and to start purchasing natural gas after the summer of 2002. The government is committed under the Kyoto agreement to replace oil-fired power plants and switch to natural gas by 2006. — (AFP, Nicosia)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)