NICOSIA (Dow Jones Newswires), Nov. 21, 2011
A defiant Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said Monday that the island's offshore hydrocarbon search will carry on despite strong opposition from Turkey.
He made the vow after touring U.S. energy firm Noble's "Homer Ferrington" platform for the first time since the exploratory drilling which has triggered a hostile reaction from Ankara.
Regional tensions have been rising after the internationally-recognized Cyprus government made a deal with Noble.
The Texas firm at the end of September began exploratory drilling for gas off divided Cyprus's south coast, ignoring warnings that Turkey would retaliate by launching its own explorations in the area.
Christofias stressed "the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus which we are determined to exercise."
"Secondly, I'm here to get a personal picture of this entire effort because there is a lot of very serious work to do," added the president, whose small country sees an opportunity to become a regional player in the energy sector.
"This is an effort to secure--if successful--the future and prosperity of generations to come," said Christofias.
U.S.-based Noble Energy is drilling in the island's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to locate possible hydrocarbons in block 12, some 180 (115 miles) kilometers off the south coast.
Initial estimates by Noble predict between 3 and 9 trillion cubic feet (85 billion and 255 cubic meters) of gas locked under the sea bed--lower than the government's preliminary evaluation of 10 tcf.
But even a find of less than 10 tcf would meet the island's domestic gas needs for decades.
Results from Noble's test drilling are expected to be ready in mid-December.
Turkey has repeatedly called on Cyprus to postpone its gas exploration, saying the Greek Cypriot side has no right to do so while the island remains split, arguing it excludes the Turkish-held north.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.
Both the European Union and United Nations are worried that the energy row could derail Cyprus peace talks that are faltering after three years of painstaking U.N.-brokered negotiations.
Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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