NEW YORK, March 22 Cyprus will move ahead with
further licensing for oil drilling after analyzing the results
of its most recent exploration, the country's energy minister
Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said on Wednesday.
Cyprus announced the completion of a third round of
licensing for well drilling in which Exxon Mobil,
Italy’s ENI and France’s Total won additional
blocks offshore. The contracts will be signed on April 5 and 6,
but it has not yet been determined which blocks off Cyprus'
coast the companies will drill, Lakkotrypis said.
The minister said that while the country's current priority
is "exploration, exploration, exploration," he expected much
more for Cyprus on the energy front.
"Once we have the results of this exploration 2.0 as I
called it, then of course there will be a fourth (round) and a
fifth and a sixth and I’m sure there will be plenty more,"
Lakkotrypis told Reuters on the sidelines of Capital Link's
Invest in Cyprus Forum in New York City.
Additionally, ENI and Total will have additional wells on
the already licensed block with ENI expected to begin work in
late June or early July. ENI will also progress with "a couple"
of wells this year, Lakkotrypis said. Exxon will be developing
its well in 2018 with a number of exploration wells to take
place in the coming years.
Cyprus is seeking to develop its energy sector to bolster an
economy that relies largely on tourism, business services and
shipping. However efforts to expand the energy sector could be
complicated by the island's division between Turkish Cypriots
and Greek Cypriots.
Turkey, which supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in
northern Cyprus and is highly influential there, says the Greek
Cypriot-led government of the island has no right to explore for
Cyprus and Turkey do not have diplomatic relations and peace
talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reunite the island
under a federal umbrella broke off abruptly in February.
Lakkotrypis said the government was committed to negotiating
an agreement with Turkey but that its oil and gas development
was not part of that discussion.
"Cyprus is a sovereign country," he said. "We will continue
to go ahead and proceed with strategic plans in the oil and gas
industry to develop the industry with the help of some of the
biggest companies in the world."
(Reporting by Dion Rabouin,; Additional reporting by Michele
Kambas in Cyprus; Editing by Andrew Hay)