United States Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, Francis Fannon, is set to visit Cyprus, Israel and Egypt this week. This visit coincides with the arrival at the port of Limassol of the Exxon Mobil drilling rig, Stena IceMax, in preparation of the first drilling in block 10 in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus. The Stena IceMax drill is expected to begin drilling as soon as possible, under Washington’s watchful eye. However, American firm Exxon Mobil has not released more information, since it is company policy not to disclose exact dates of drilling in advance.
The US Foreign Ministry announced that Francis Fannon will meet government officials and representatives of the private sector to discuss issues related to energy security and regional energy cooperation. The US official’s visit “…will highlight the economic opportunities in the energy sector for the development of the Eastern Mediterranean gas industry and exports and will encourage debate on how the countries in the region can exploit these opportunities in order to ensure regional stability and economic growth”.
Energy is expected to serve as the tool for cooperation, stability, security and
prosperity among the concerned countries. In that sense, Eastern Mediterranean energy can contribute to positive trends in the region, as an opportunity to transform the conflictual relations among the regional countries into cooperative ones.
The Eastern Mediterranean is a strategic region where zero-sum competition is the
regional characteristic. More importantly, the gas findings may complicate relations
further in this fragile and volatile region. The question here is whether broader political and economic integration would be achieved as the inevitable result of bilateral or multilateral agreements in the Mediterranean. In other words, it is worth asking whether the limited cooperation in energy would be transformed into a formal, rules-based structure covering the whole region and other regional concerns as well. If this would be
achieved, the gas of the Eastern Mediterranean would play the role of coal and steel in