CAIRO, Feb 16 (Reuters) – Egypt and Cyprus have signed a memorandum of understanding on energy cooperation and aim to reach a deal on Egyptian imports of Cypriot gas in six months, the Egyptian prime minister's office said in a statement on Monday.
Cyprus discovered natural gas offshore in late 2011, while once gas-rich Egypt has turned into a net importer from an exporter due to increasing consumption and declining production.
Cyprus' energy minister said last month that the country had begun talks with U.S. energy company Noble over its plans to develop a 4.54 trillion cubic feet (tcf) gas field, known as Aphrodite.
The two countries agreed in November to accelerate talks on the potential export of Cypriot gas through Egypt's natural gas infrastructure, a deal that could help ease a chronic energy shortage in the most populous Arab state.
Monday's signing by Egyptian Oil Minister Sharif Ismail and Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis would further promote cooperation that would help Egypt meet its energy needs and Cyprus export its gas, the statement said.
The memorandum allows for studying technical solutions to transport gas through a direct sea pipeline from Aphrodite field to Egypt, it said.
"We aim for an agreement on this regard within six months of the signing of the memorandum of understanding," the prime minister's office statement said.
But Egypt's oil minister said that prices were not expected to be agreed upon in that period.
"There is no agreement on the Cypriot gas import prices. That will be negotiated after the expiration of the six months," Ismail told reporters.
Egypt, which sees frequent power shortages, relies heavily on natural gas to power homes and businesses.
(Reporting By Shadi Bushra. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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