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Economic, Strategic Moves from Israel, Noble Energy

shimon peres in cyprusUS company Noble Energy has proposed a pipeline running from Israel's Leviathan gas field to an LNG plant it wants to build in Vasiliko along the coastline, just ahead of an historic visit by Israeli President Shimon Peres who is due in Cyprus this evening.

Noble Energy's country manager John Z. Tomich presented the plans for a 10-billion-dollar LNG plant at the University of Cyprus as part of a vision in which Cyprus and Israeli energy industries work together to supply Europe with natural gas.

Leviathan is one of the biggest gas reserves discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean and neighbors Cyprus' Block 12. Noble Energy works closely with Israeli company DELEK, which is its partner in the development of a natural gas well in Block 12 of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Meanwhile, in the interests of further developing the recently-developed closer political, economic and military cooperation between Cyprus and Israel, Shimon Peres will arrive on the island tonight at 7.30pm. Accompanied by a delegation from DELEK, he will meet with President Demetris Christofias to sign bilateral agreements. Peres will also meet with Archbishop Chrysostomos II, House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou, and House majority leader Nikos Anastassiades during his two-day visit.

The government is set to open a new round of bids for offshore undersea exploration concessions by the end of the year and perhaps as soon as two or three weeks time. Noble Energy has expressed an interest in buying more concessions to explore for undersea hydrocarbons, and Peres' visit is linked to these developments, say analysts.

Income from allowing international companies to explore for hydrocarbons is included in the 2012 Budget and is viewed as a key way to finance the state now that it has lost access to international capital markets. The prospects of a new gas and oil industry in the region have led to a number of bilateral agreements between Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Egypt.

But there are risks to the burgeoning industry. As Cyprus-Israel cooperation grows, Turkey-Israel relations are on the wane after the deaths of nine Turkish-origin activists who were killed en-route to taking humanitarian aid to Gaza in 2010. Moreover, Turkey is determined to interfere with the government's sovereign rights and has repeatedly threatened to start exploring in Cyprus waters. Ankara has already sent three seismic research ships to the island's Exclusive Economic Zone on the basis that the government does not represent the Turkish Cypriots. The vessels are accompanied by Turkish warships as it beefs up its naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey's position has been condemned by the EU, Russia, and Greece, while the US and UK have both issued statements supporting Cyprus' right to exploit its own offshore resources. Israel has taken more active steps to counter Turkey's threats, and most recently sent six military helicopters to do exercises in Cyprus.

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