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Durham University

IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

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Cyprus and Israel reach agreement for maritime delimitation

(11 January 2011)

An agreement delimiting the maritime boundary between Cyprus and Israel was signed on 17 December 2010. The agreement is the first to be reached by Israel with another country regarding their maritime boundary, and divides their respective exclusive economic zones. This has been seen as an important step in the countries cooperative exploration of hydrocarbon exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Although details of the agreement are not known, it is likely that the new boundary is delimited along the equidistance line given the relatively simple geography of both coastlines. It is also likely that the agreement will make some provision for the cooperative exploration of gas fields that straddle the line. Recent exploration of the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields had created pressure for Israel to delimit its maritime boundaries with neighbouring countries. The Leviathan field is situated near previously-undefined maritime boundaries with neighbouring Cyprus and Lebanon. Prior to the agreement, Texas-based exploration company Noble Energy had acquired concession blocks in both Cyprus and Israel to facilitate exploration of the Leviathan field.

Turkey has criticized the Cyprus-Israel agreement, in part due to the diplomatic fallout following Israel’s raid on a flotilla bound for Gaza in May 2010. Nine Turkish activists were killed during the raid. Turkey also rejects the new boundary since it was agreed without the participation of the Turkish-supported government in Northern Cyprus which also claims rights to resources in the region. However, the government of Northern Cyprus is unrecognized within the international community. Cyprus has already signed an agreement with Egypt regarding their maritime boundaries, and is awaiting ratification of a maritime boundary agreement signed with Lebanon.

Source: ‘Maritime delineation completed between Israel and Cyprus’, Catherine Hunter, IHS Global Insight, 20 December 2010; ‘Turkey criticizes Cyprus-Israel maritime border deal’, IHS Global Insight, 22 December 2010; ‘Cyprus, Israel sign accord demarcating maritime borders with eye on offshore gas search’, Menelaos Hadjicostis, Associated Press, 17 December 2010

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