US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources to visit Cyprus next week

US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon will visit Nicosia next week and will hold meetings with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Energy, Nikos Christodoulides and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis during which the issue of Turkish illegal actions in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone is expected to be discussed, among others.

The Cyprus News Agency (CNA) has learned that Fannon will arrive to the island on Tuesday, and on Wednesday he will attend along with Minister Lakkotrypis the opening of a meeting of a working group, the establishment of which was agreed at the 1st Energy Ministerial Conference of Cyprus, Greece, Israel and the US that took place in Athens in August 2019. This will be the first meeting of the working group focusing on joint emergency preparedness and response mechanism for offshore oil and gas operations.

Lakkotrypis and Fannon will hold a meeting on the sidelines of this event on Wednesday, while the US official will also meet with Foreign Minister Christodoulides on Thursday prior to his departure, CNA has learned.

The Energy Ministers of Greece, Kostas Hatzidakis, the Republic of Cyprus, Georgios Lakkotrypis, the State of Israel, Yuval Steinitz, and the US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, Francis Fannon, had reiterated in a joint statement after the 1st Energy Ministerial Conference, their full support and solidarity with the Republic of Cyprus in exploring and developing its resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone and expressed their concern with provocative steps underway in the Eastern Mediterranean. In this context, the United States also reaffirmed its position that the island’s oil and gas resources should be shared equitably between both communities in the context of an overall settlement.

Moreover, the Ministers expressed their strong support for sovereign states’ rights in order not to endanger peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, while affirming their shared commitment to promote peace, stability, security and prosperity in the region. Fannon also underlined the increasing and tangible support of the US government for the establishment of a structured quadrilateral mechanism for cooperation that focuses on energy matters.

Additionally, the Ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Israel and the United States identified several significant areas of common interest, including, inter alia, infrastructure projects, renewable energy and energy storage, emergency preparedness, environmental protection and cyber security, while agreeing to establish a High Level Working Group (HLWG) that will highlight specific energy projects and propose ways of promoting their implementation.

Moreover, the Ministers agreed to work towards signing an agreement for a joint emergency preparedness and response mechanism for offshore oil and gas operations, while the HLWG will report its progress to the Ministers of Energy on a regular basis.

At their joint statement, the Ministers and the United States agreed to support the energy independence of their countries and the establishment of an Energy Corridor of the Eastern Mediterranean, contributing thus to the energy security of the European Union by actively promoting the diversification of import sources and routes. Moreover, support to the implementation of the East Med gas pipeline was reaffirmed.

Turkey has dispatched drillship Yavuz to conduct a drilling operation off the south of the island of Cyprus, that has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks for a Cyprus settlement have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

The Cyprus government has condemned Turkey’s newly planned illegal drilling within the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf of the Republic of Cyprus, noting that Turkey, provocatively ignoring the repeated calls by the international community and the European Union, to terminate its illegal activities in Cyprus’ EEZ, is now attempting to carry out a “new illegal drilling in the southern EEZ/continental shelf of Cyprus, inside exploration block 8, which was duly licensed to the European companies ENI and TOTAL”.

Source: Cyprus News Agency