Speaking after talks with her Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, Marcoullis said the deal is important for both countries. “We are, I think, in the final stages of the negotiations for this agreement,” Marcoullis said. “Hopefully soon we will have the opportunity to sign the agreement.”
In December, Texas-based Noble Energy, which is working with both countries, reported an offshore gas prospect of between 5 and 8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) in a Cypriot field, known as block 12. It has found more than double that on the Israeli side of a maritime boundary.
Turkey has challenged the island’s jurisdiction to explore, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights. Ankara wants Cyprus to scrap exploration plans pending reunification talks and has threatened to take measures to protect its own interests in the area.
Asked about the threats, Lieberman said “any threat is unacceptable behaviour” in international politics. The Israeli diplomat said there was only one way to resolve problems and disagreements: “direct talks without preconditions, without prejudiced views.”
The two sides also discussed other matters like water management and energy, as well as regional cooperation on natural disasters. “We are ready and are open to strengthen our relations with every country in the region and the world,” Lieberman said. It is understood that this cooperation would include Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.
Marcoullis said Cyprus was promoting this kind of cooperation, not only in tackling emergencies and crises but also in the area of search and rescue. “We are already in dialogue with Lebanon and Egypt because it is our neighbourhood and only through cooperation can we combat these crises,” Marcoullis said.
Lieberman later discussed the prospects of further expansion of cooperation between the two countries in the fields of energy, tourism and investment with Commerce and Industry Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis.
Lieberman said relations between the two countries are probably at their best stage since the establishment of Cyprus and Israel.
The Israeli finance minister is expected on the island next month to discuss a double taxation agreement as well as protection of investment.
Sylikiotis is also expected to travel to Israel sometime in June.
Mainly prompted by mutual economic interests, relations between the two countries have rapidly developed in recent years.The improvement was marked in February by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Cyprus — the first ever visit of an Israeli prime minister to the island.
By George Psyllides
Published on April 18, 2012