Local
articles | 18 September 2016

Amman eyes Cyprus gas

A Cyprus-Jordan preliminary gas agreement is being mulled by experts negotiating the best way to execute it, said newly-appointed ambassador Mohamad Elfayez.

“It’s in the hands of the experts, we are not at the stage of negotiating prices, we are negotiating, let’s say, the best way to do it,” he said.

“The pipeline is probably the best way, gas is what we need in Jordan; we are not talking oil with Cyprus, only gas imports,” Elfayez added.

Press reports have Cyprus selling natural gas to Jordan for domestic purposes by the year 2022.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II left Cyprus last week after a brief but substantial one-day visit saying there are “regional projects” his country is interested in developing with Nicosia.

The King did not elaborate but Elfayez, who only presented his credentials on August 30, said getting gas from Cyprus “is a regional project we have in mind, absolutely”.

“We have the pipes we used in the last century to transfer oil from Iraq to Jordan directly; we stopped that because of the war in Israel and West Bank. The infrastructure for gas is already there in Jordan.

“It could be a short-cut (to transfer gas from Cyprus) to either Africa or Asia. We need gas for domestic consumption, absolutely, we are working on this.”

The ambassador also said Athens is in the picture, too, because a trilateral agreement involving Greece would be good.

“Greece is an old partner for all of us, for Cyprus and for Jordan. Greece’s involvement will help in relations, as far as gas is concerned.”

This was something King Abdullah and President Nicos Anastasiades had discussed, hours before the Cypriot leader flew to Greece for a Mediterranean EU Member States Summit, preceded by a tete-a-tete with Greek PM Alexis Tsipras.

Sufficient amounts of natural gas offshore Cyprus were discovered in December 2012 in bloc 12, which is leased by Houston-based Noble Energy, Israeli subsidiary Delek and Shell.

Elfayez said with Cyprus they are almost done with a few other agreements – such as defence, double tax avoidance, tourism and environmental protection.

Tourism and much more

Jordanians are already attracted to the holiday island, but not too many Cypriots go to Jordan, the ambassador said.

“Jordan and Cyprus have many things in common – traditionally, mentality, behaviour, we are only 500 kilometres apart,” said Elfayez whose previous overseas postings were in Asia.

“Here in Nicosia, I feel I’m back at home,” he added,before noting that Jordan, Greece and Cyprus could be promoted as a package tourist destination.

“We have Petra, we have mineral water lakes, the waters where Christ was baptized, we get a lot of Russians but more visitors from Germany, Netherlands; we are the most stable country in the region.”

“It is sad that such a peaceful, quiet area has become so volatile, our main concern is to keep Jordan safe. Jordan is home for refugees from all over the world, almost two million people, 20% of the population are refugees.”

And this puts a lot of pressure on Jordan which has limited resources, said Elfayez who also accused the international community of not doing asmuch as it should.

“We receive some aid but not as much as we should. President Anastasiades is helping, Cyprus’ share of the EU has come to Jordan and this is much appreciated.”

The population of Jordan is 97% Sunni Muslims, and there is a 3% Christian community but the secret behind the country’s peaceful life is that discussion of religion is prohibited.

“We do not accept discussion of religion, we are a multicultural, open society but religion discussion at any house or public space is forbidden.”

“We have a very wise leadership as a nation; I say it as a fact not as a compliment for the king.  They’ve kept the country safe.”

Defence cooperation

Jordan has a very professional army which is asked repeatedly to participate at UN peacekeeping missions, said Elfayez.

“Jordan is at the front facing terrorism because we suffered a lot from terrorism, in the 80s we lost a few ambassadors and diplomats, in Jordan in 2005 we had an attack, lately we managed to put out some attacks…we are very clear on this, no mercy on terrorism.”

“Cyprus appreciates the role of Jordan…to counter terrorism you need to have people trained, EU and Cyprus supply Jordan with knowledge and tools and the (defence) agreement (between Cyprus and Jordan) includes joint military exercises.”

On Turkey-Jordan relations in view of Turkey’s continued occupation of part of Cyprus, the ambassador said: “We have good relations with Turkey, it is our neighbour too and we are trying to bring together all neighbours in the region.”

Source: InCyprus

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