Cyprus FM heads to Israel for snap visit

Christodoulides is expected to arrive in Israel on Tuesday morning via helicopter to Ben-Gurion Airport.

East-Med gas deal signed by Cyprus, Greece and Israel, January 2020 (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
East-Med gas deal signed by Cyprus, Greece and Israel, January 2020
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides was set to pay a quick visit to Israel on Tuesday morning, with energy issues at the top of the agenda.
Christodoulides is expected to arrive in Israel on Tuesday morning via helicopter to Ben-Gurion Airport, which has a special coronavirus green zone for the purpose of allowing such diplomatic visits. Ashkenazi plans to meet him at the airport.
The visit is in lieu of one by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades with several ministers, which was canceled because of an increase in coronavirus cases in Israel in recent weeks. Anastasiades is in a high-risk category because of his age and because he recently underwent surgery.
Cyprus’ foreign minister sought to meet with new Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi despite the cancellation of the larger delegation.
Ashkenazi is expected to ask Christodoulides to defend Israel more vocally in the EU.
Cyprus has not yet publicly expressed a position on the possibility that Israel may extend its civil law to parts of the West Bank, but is thought to oppose it. Askhenazi will likely ask Christodoulides to vote against any proposed EU sanctions on Israel and to call to moderate the wording of critical statements.
Christodoulides is expected to bring up issues that Cyprus has had with Turkey, including their continued occupation of Northern Cyprus and their encroachment into Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea.
Energy is expected to be a major issue on the agenda for the visit, including the EastMed offshore and onshore gas pipeline, planned to be 1,900 km long, from Israeli economic waters to the Greek mainland via Cyprus and Crete. 
Another energy related issue between Israel and Cyprus is the Aphrodite-Yishai gas field, about 10% of which is in Israel’s exclusive economic zone, and the rest of which belongs to Cyprus.
The Energy Ministry estimates the Israeli part of Aphrodite-Yishai has 10-12 billion cubic meters of natural gas, much less than the Leviathan gas field, which has an estimated 605 bcm. A study by economist Dr. Yehoshua Hoffer for Israel Opportunity and AGR/Nammax, which the license to operate the field, found it could net Israel’s government about NIS 5 billion in royalties and taxes.
Israel and Cyprus have been involved in a years-long dispute over the development of the gas field in the Mediterranean, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying in 2018 that Israel may go to arbitration to work it out.
In the meantime, the holding companies for Cyprus’ part of the reservoir, signed a 25-year development and export agreement with Nicosia. Any pumping on the Cyprus side will impact the Israeli side, because they are all one gas field, so Israel has taken issue with these agreements moving forward.


Tags cyprus gas