12 January 2013 10:23

 Cyprus and Lebanon have agreed to increase cooperation and to look into ways to exploit the gas and oil in their waters, President Michel Suleiman said yesterday after talks with visiting President Christofias.
“We have given the issue of the gas and oil available in our waters top priority and agreed to increase co-operation to agree on principles and sound means that would allow us to extract this resource,” he said.
Christofias’ two-day visit, which began yesterday, was intended to discuss the demarcation of maritime borders in an attempt to reach an agreement over the Exclusive Economic Zone between Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel.
Beirut and Tel Aviv both lay claim to an 850 sq km area off the coast between the two countries.
Cyprus has signed delineation agreements with Israel, Egypt and Lebanon but the latter deal is still on hold.
Regarding the controversial issue, Christofias said: “We have no differences with Lebanon. The difference is between Lebanon and Israel. We tried to play the role of a friendly mediator and our wish is that the issue is solved as soon as possible.” And he added: “I do not represent the state of Israel, neither am I Israel’s envoy.” Lebanon argues that the Israeli-Cypriot bilateral agreement signed in 2010 and ratified in 2011 conflicts with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and is demanding its amendment.
Nonetheless, Suleiman also said that with Chirstofias they agreed to increase co-operation in other economic, political, and social fields in order to benefit from each country's expertise.
"We have signed memorandums of understanding between the Lebanese and Cypriot Industry Ministry as regards tourism as well as with the Ministry of Defense in terms of military co-operation," he added.
After his meeting with Suleiman at the Presidential Palace, (photo) Christofias held talks with the Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri.
The controversial issue of the EEZ was also high on the agenda with Berri, highlighting Lebanon's insisting on its rights to offshore gas and oil resources.
He referred to what he called "dangerous developments in the region” saying they stemmed from what has been promoted as "constructive chaos" and "the new Middle East".
President Christofias’ response was: "The world today needs balance, more than at any time, amid the developments the region is witnessing.” Christofias also met Prime Minister Najib Mikati and will address a Cyprus- Lebanon business forum today.
He will also hold talks with the Patriarch of Cilicia Aram I and the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi.
He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Markoullis, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Neoclis Sylikiotis, Defence Minister Demetris Eliades, and the Director of the President’s Office Christos Christofides.


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