US sees Cyprus as key player in east Med energy

US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon and Cyprus' Minister of Energy Yiorgos Lakkotrypis talk to media during a meeting of the 3+1 Technical Group (Cyprus, Greece, Israel and USA) for offshore oil and gas operations in Nicosia, Cyprus February 5, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 February 2020

US sees Cyprus as key player in east Med energy

  • Fannon’s visit coincides with Turkey pushing ahead with drilling activity in Cyprus’s designated exclusive economic zone
  • The US official said energy resources were a “catalyst for cooperation”

NICOSIA: Washington sees Cyprus as a key player in eastern Mediterranean energy supplies, a visiting senior US official said Wednesday, while warning against further instability in the region as tensions rise over Turkey’s drilling activities off the divided island.
“Cyprus has an incredibly important role to play in this new energy corridor that is still developing throughout the region,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon.
“We urge all parties to not take any provocative actions that could create any further instability. And we’re steadfast on that,” he added.
He made the comments before a gathering of Israeli, Greek and Cypriot technical experts gathered in Nicosia to discuss ways to boost safety and security in offshore gas drilling.
Fannon’s visit coincides with Turkey upping the ante by pushing ahead with drilling activity in Cyprus’s designated exclusive economic zone (EEZ) despite EU threats of sanctions against Ankara.
The US official said energy resources were a “catalyst for cooperation” and that the United States remained committed at the highest level.
“We support the Republic of Cyprus to develop its resources in its EEZ,” said Fannon.
Fannon welcomed the involvement of American companies in regional cooperation, including their role in developing new energy pathways.
Last year, US energy giant ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum discovered the largest natural gas reserve off Cyprus holding an estimated five to eight trillion cubic feet (up to 224 billion cubic meters).
Italy’s ENI and Total of France are also heavily involved in exploring for oil and gas off the island.
Greece, Cyprus and Israel last month signed an agreement to move ahead with construction of an ambitious 6-billion-euro ($6.6 billion) undersea EastMed pipeline to deliver gas to European markets.
Cyprus Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said that US support in creating an Eastern Mediterranean corridor was “profound and solid.”
“Cooperation among our three countries (Cyprus, Greece, Israel) plus the US is very important,” Lakkotrypis said.
“In contrast to this positive outlook, Turkey acts as a spoiler through its continued illegal exploration activities in the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, escalating since last May and clearly violating international law,” he told the Nicosia gathering.
Turkey insists the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — recognized only by Ankara — has the right to explore around the entire island.
UN-sponsored talks on reunifying the island as a bizonal, bi-communal federation collapsed in July 2017 and have not resumed, in part because of deep divisions over offshore gas.
The Cyprus government has no diplomatic relations with Turkey, which dismisses it as an exclusively Greek Cypriot administration
Cyprus is divided between the Greek Cypriot south — an EU member state — and the Turkish Cypriot north which has been occupied by Turkey since 1974 in response to an Athens-engineered coup.


East China cities quarantine arrivals as virus spreads in S. Korea, Japan

Commuters wearing protective face masks amid fears of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus ride an elevated train in Bangkok. (AFP)
Updated 17 min 59 sec ago

East China cities quarantine arrivals as virus spreads in S. Korea, Japan

  • South Korea has reported 10 deaths and almost 1,000 infections, while Japan has 159 confirmed cases, not including 691 on a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo

BEIJING: The eastern Chinese city of Qingdao is imposing a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals, state media reported on Tuesday, as China moves to address the threat of a rise in coronavirus cases in neighboring South Korea and nearby Japan.
People with suspected virus symptoms arriving in Qingdao, a major Northeast Asian transport hub in Shandong province, should be isolated in designated hospitals, while others are required to stay at their residences or designated hotels, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The rule came into force on Monday, Xinhua added, citing a local government statement.
“Apparently 100,000 South Koreans live in Qingdao, and there are normally over 300 flights a week between Seoul and Qingdao,” Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Peking University, said on Twitter. “This is likely to be disruptive to both economies.”
Another Shandong city, Weihai, said it would quarantine arrivals from Japan and South Korea from Tuesday — the first country-specific compulsory quarantine requirement by China, which has criticized travel restrictions implemented by other countries.
The measures comes as the virus, which started in China’s Hubei province, takes hold beyond the country.
South Korea has reported 10 deaths and almost 1,000 infections, while Japan has 159 confirmed cases, not including 691 on a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo.
Weihai is also home to a sizeable Korean expatriate community. It lies near the eastern tip of the Shandong peninsula across the Yellow Sea from South Korea, and its quarantine rules apply both to Chinese and foreign nationals arriving in the city.
They will be put up in hotels free of charge for a 14-day quarantine period, according to a notice on the city’s official Wechat account.

HIGHLIGHTS

● Qingdao imposes 14-day quarantine on all arrivals.

● Shandong city Weihai singles out S. Korea, Japan arrivals.

● S. Korea has almost 1,000 cases; Japan cases up.

People who arrived in Weihai from South Korea or Japan from Feb. 10 onwards have already been contacted by the Weihai government, the statement said, adding it had “appropriately handled” cases of fever.
The government of a third Shandong port city, Yantai, on Tuesday said all business travelers and short-term visitors should stay in designated hotels.
Further north in China’s Liaoning province, the city of Liaoning — home to both North Korean and South Korean communities — is tightening screening of inbound passengers and will check the temperature of all arrivals, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Sweden’s health agency said it would not introduce airport controls that take up resources but are “ineffective” because infected people may not show symptoms.
Ukraine International Airlines onboard personnel will wear rubber gloves and masks on flights from Italy.
Meanwhile, the drugmaker Moderna has shipped a potential coronavirus vaccine for humans to government researchers for testing.
Shares of the biotech company soared, a day after the company said it sent vials to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for early-stage testing in the US.