NICOSIA, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Tuesday, committing themselves to construct EastMed, an undersea natural gas pipeline from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe.
The signing of the agreement came at the end of a meeting of the energy ministers of Cyprus, Greece and Israel and the ambassador of Italy in Nicosia. The Italian energy minister was prevented from flying to Cyprus by a fault of his plane.
Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said after the signing ceremony that the EastMed, involving about 2,000 km of piping from the eastern Mediterranean through Cyprus and Greece to Italy, is "a very important pillar" in the exploitation of natural gas fields discovered by Israel and Cyprus.
"Today we have concluded a very significant milestone, which is the signing of a memorandum of understanding which outlines the political commitment of the four countries to pursue this project," Lakkotrypis said.
A joint statement said that the four countries would cooperate to facilitate studies, permits, construction and operation of the project, with a view to signing an Intergovernmental Agreement on the project next year.
"The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding and the quadrilateral discussions confirmed our intention to cooperate in enabling and enhancing the development and the implementation of the EastMed pipeline project as a viable and strategic option and an infrastructure of special interest for gas producing states and the EU," the statement added.
A representative of the European Commissioner for Energy was present at the meeting and the signing of the agreement to denote support by the European Union to the project as an alternative route of gas supply.
Israel has discovered two large gas fields containing an estimated 24 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, while Cyprus owns a gas field with a potential of up to 6.5 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Italian ENI energy company is set to start a drilling in Cypriot block 6 before the end of this year and has requested licensing for two more drillings immediately afterwards, Lakkotrypis said.