Oil and Gas

Cyprus plans third offshore licensing round

ATHENS, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Cyprus said on Tuesday it was planning a third offshore licensing round for hydrocarbons exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, moves which have triggered opposition from Turkey in the past.

Cyprus discovered natural gas offshore in late 2011 in an area close to a sea boundary with Israel, where some of the world’s largest natural gas discoveries have been made in the past decade.

“Cabinet today decided to move ahead with a third licensing round ... it authorised the energy minister to submit the relevant proposals to implement the proposal the soonest possible,” government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides told journalists.

Cyprus’s attempts to tap offshore reserves have previously been a source of friction with Turkey, which supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus.

The island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek Cypriot coup, and Turkey does not recognise the Cypriot government conducting the licensing rounds.

Cyprus has 13 offshore licensing blocks, five of which are already licensed to Italy’s ENI, France’s Total and a consortium comprised of Noble Energy, BG International and Israel’s Delek Drilling and Avner. (Writing By Michele Kambas, editing by David Evans)