Harry Tzimitras, director of the PRIO Research Centre in the Republic of Cyprus, said that further exploration for gas in offshore Cyprus next year in Blocks 2,9, and 11 which are adjacent to Block 12 (see map) would be likely to increase antagonism between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus. PRIO standing for Peace Research Institute Oslo was founded in 1959 by a group of Norwegian researchers. A centre was established in Nicosia with the stated aim of contributing to an informed public debate on key issues relevant to an eventual settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Drilling licenses were recently approved by the RoC, enabling foreign companies to search for gas and oil in four blocks off the south coast of Cyprus. U.S. company Noble Energy, already awarded Block 12, announced that last year it had discovered gas reserves of up to 8 trillion cubic feet, estimated at a value of 100 billion euros. Mr. Tzimitras said that one of the main aims of promoting offshore drilling was to re-float the struggling economy of the Republic of Cyprus. The RoC can expect to be paid around 200 million euros in advance by foreign investors by the end of this year.
Tzimitras said that the Republic of Cyprus was desperately trying to avoid signing up to the EU Troika memorandum. The Troika is a consortium of the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund which negotiates a framework for economic bailouts.
Turkey has warned off petrol companies from making contracts with the Republic of Cyprus due to issues of sovereignty, and has threatened to exclude those companies from any new gas and oil projects launched in Turkey. However, Mr. Tzimitras said that gas and oil exploration offshore Cyprus could potentially enable reconciliation between Greeks and Turks. He said that, “When the companies extract the gas, the cheapest thing to bring it to the market would be a pipeline through Turkey. According to estimates, the cost of the construction of a pipeline from Cyprus to Turkey would be only around 1.5 to 2 billion euros.”
Professor Tzimitras Lectures in International Law and is an Associate Professor at Istanbul Bilgi University lecturing in Turkish and Greek studies.