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Cyprus-Israel Move Forward on Gas Agreement

libermanTalks to reach an agreement on undersea gas reserve exploitation have moved forward between Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, said the FMs in a joint statement.

"There are good contacts at technical level and understanding at political level and the matter will proceed," said Lieberman during his visit to Cyprus.

The issue has been on the table of negotiations between the two country to reach an agreement on maritime boundaries which would govern the exploitation of billions of dollars worth of natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean.

"We make efforts to achieve agreement and move forward," said Lieberman.

Kyprianou said: "we both have positive approach on this issue."

Lieberman's visit closely follows meetings last month between President Demetris Christofias and the American Jewish Committee.

Israel is courting Cyprus' cooperation amid negotiations in the Eastern Mediterranean to exploit undersea gas reserves found off the coast of Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus. The reserves are estimated to be worth 300 billion US dollars.

Cyprus is seeking clarification on maritime boundaries with Israel, while Israel and Lebanon, still technically at war, are approaching a stand-off as some of the reserves may lie within Lebanon's waters.

The situation has become more complex in the wake of the death of nine Turkish-origin activists killed by Israeli special forces en route to breaking the Israeli armed blockade on the Gaza Strip. Turkey-Israel relations suffered considerably, with Turkey recalling its ambassador to Israel and cancelling joint projects and military training exercises.

After Israeli companies announced they had found two sites in the Eastern Mediterranean which may hold up to 24 trillion cubic feet of gas, some analysts say that Israel's recent attack on the Turkish aid ship carrying humanitarian activists to the Gaza Strip was a warning to Turkey. The country, which has occupied Cyprus since 1974, has said in the past that it would act to protect the Turkish-Cypriot community's claims to any natural resources in Cyprus territorial waters.

The finds, Leviathan and Tamar, lie about 130 kilometers (81 miles) and 90 kilometers, respectively, off Israel.


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