A gas platform seen from Israel's coast.
A gas platform seen from Israel's coast. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
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Cyprus is asking to import Israeli natural gas to power its electrical generators until the island republic's own gas reserves are developed and come on stream.

That is the outcome of a meeting on Sunday between Shaul Zemach, director general of the Energy and Water Ministry, and officials of Cyprus' energy ministry. The two sides also discussed the possibility of developing a joint terminal for exporting natural gas.

The talks come less than a week after a government committee chaired by Zemach recommended that Israel designate most of its estimated 950 billion cubic meters in anticipated natural gas reserves for export. The controversial decision has yet to receive final approval.

Current estimates are that Cyprus will only begin producing gas from its own fields in 2018; the country wants to begin importing Israeli gas three years before that. The Cypriot media have quoted Neoklis Sylikiotis, the country's commerce, industry and tourism minister, as saying Israeli, Greek and Cypriot officials will meet in the next month to set up a working committee to develop joint natural gas facilities, including a liquefied natural gas terminal on the island, which is some 450 kilometers from Israel.

"There are strong indications that this cooperation is progressing," he was quoted as saying in the English-language Cyprus Mail.

Sylikiotis said Houston-based Noble Energy, which operates Israeli fields as well as Cyprus' Aphrodite gas field, will being erecting infrastructure for transporting gas in the second half of 2013, as well as a gas-export terminal.

Israeli energy companies are supporting the plans to set up the terminal in Cyprus, citing the complications of getting panning approval for a facility in Israel, as well as expected opposition from the public. The alternative to Cyprus is to bring in shipboard facilities or a fixed platform offshore.