Cyprus, Greece and Israel aim for gas pipeline deal this year

Nicosia (AFP) –


Cyprus, Greece and Israel aim to sign an agreement this year to develop a gas pipeline in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Tuesday after three-way talks in the capital Nicosia.

"This construction (of the pipeline) will contribute to the security of our energy supply and of the energy supply of the European Union", Anastasiades said after meeting the Greek and Israeli leaders.

"We reaffirmed our commitment to work with resolution to sign an intergovernmental agreement in 2018," he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the three countries were making "serious efforts" towards constructing the pipeline.

With financial backing from the European Union, the project envisages 2,100 kilometres of pipeline to carry gas from fields close to Cyprus and Israel.

The long-term project has an estimated cost of 5.8 billion euros and is not expected to get off the ground for a number of years, with the pipeline not due to be operational before 2025.

In a joint statement signed by Anastasiades, Netanyahu and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the leaders described the pipeline as a "viable and strategic option of special interest" to their countries and the EU.

The declaration follows a historic deal earlier this year for Egypt to buy Israeli gas, valued at 12 billion euros, while Cyprus is in talks with Cairo over exporting gas from the Aphrodite field.

But the division of resources at the offshore field -- the majority of which falls into Cypriot territory -- has led to a dispute with Israel which is part owner.

Earlier this month Cyprus Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said the two countries had asked energy companies to reach an agreement over ownership.