NICOSIA Dec 19 Cyprus said it had ended talks
with a consortium, including Russia's Novatek and
France's Total, that had been bidding for potential
development of a natural gas field off the island.
Stefanos Stefanou, a Cypriot government spokesman, said on
Wednesday that negotiations for the block would shift to another
consortium comprising South Korea's Kogas and
Italy's ENI, which is already in talks with authorities
for two other fields.
The decision effectively excludes for the present any
Russian involvement in developing Cypriot offshore gas in one of
the most promising resource regions discovered in the past
Stefanou said there had been insufficient progress in talks
with the consortium, which is seeking rights over the offshore
area, or block.
"The Council of Ministers decided to rescind its approval
for direct negotiations and declare the negotiations over,"
Stefanou told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
In addition, he said, talks would start with Total, which is
also bidding on its own for rights over one field, for a second
Cyprus in October declared the start of exploratory talks
with a number of companies for the potential development of
offshore natural gas fields.
The island is located in the resource rich but largely
untapped Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean.
Neighbouring Israel has reported some of the largest natural
gas finds worldwide of the past decade, and last year Cyprus
itself said it discovered between 5 trillion and 8 trillion
cubic feet of gas in one offshore field under concession to
Government officials have said they hope to introduce gas to
the domestic market by 2019 and also be in a position to export
it through an LNG terminal.
Turkey, which lies north of Cyprus, says the ethnically
split island has no authority to explore for gas.
Cyprus's internationally recognised government hopes future
profits will spur growth on the recession-hit island, which was
forced to seek an international bailout this year due to its
exposure to debt-crippled Greece.
(Writing By Michele Kambas; editing by Jane Baird)