The minister said exploratory drilling would take place by early next year at six blocks while the remaining two operations would be to confirm gas deposits already found during previous drilling operations. Gas has been discovered at three sites off the coast of the divided island.
The government is close to a deal with the concession holders, Noble Energy, Shell and Delek, for the Aphrodite reservoir in block 12, discovered in 2011, he said.
ExxonMobil, Total and Eni are licensed to search.
“Activities in the Cyprus EEZ [exclusive economic zone] continue. Eight drills are scheduled over the next 24 months. Six exploratory and two confirmatory,” Lakkotrypis told the media.
“There remain certain legal points relating to the agreement between us, and on the optimal way of exploitation which concerns running a subsea pipeline to the LNG terminal in Idku [Egypt], liquefaction there and then transporting the LNG to world markets,” Lakkotrypis said.
The option of an LNG refinery in Cyprus was still under discussion, Lakkotrypis added, with land being secured near Vasilikos (pictured) for the possible construction of a five-train terminal.
Turkey says any drilling would prevent Turkish Cypriots from benefiting the natural resources. Ankara has announced its intention to drill off the Cypriot coast until September 3.
The Republic of Cyprus accuses Turkey of violating its sovereign rights by attempting to drill where it has internationally recognised exclusive economic rights.
The European Union this week urged Turkey to show restraint and respect the sovereignty of a member state.
The United States, Israel and Egypt have also condemned Turkey’s intrusion in the EEZ.
Egypt and Turkey have had strained ties ever since the Turkish-backed Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi was toppled in 2013.
Ankara is also at odds with Cairo over maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey claims the Cypriots are drilling inside its continental shelf and it is acting in compliance with international law.
Ankara says blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in Cyprus’ EEZ, which it does not recognise, lie within Turkey’s continental shelf. Turkey in February last year blocked exploration by Italy’s Eni in block 3.
In December 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wanted to renegotiate an early 20th-century treaty marking the maritime boundaries of Turkey and Cyprus.
Successive United Nations-backed talks to reunify Cyprus have failed with the most recent attempts made in Switzerland in July 2017.
Vasilikos. Picture credit: IHA