NICOSIA, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- A Cypriot parliamentary committee has cleared for discussion by a plenary session of the legislature a bill setting up an energy fund to manage income from the selling of natural gas, a parliamentary official said on Monday.
Angelos Votsis, the chair of the finance committee of parliament, said that the bill has been scheduled for discussion and possible approval on Feb.15.
Cyprus has discovered two natural gas fields in its offshore exclusive economic zone, containing and estimated 10.5 trillion cubic feet (297 billion cubic meters) of gas.
ExxonMobil is nearing the end of an exploratory drill, with results expected to be announced by the middle of the month.
Reports in Cypriot media said the prospects of another discovery are positive. If the predictions are confirmed, a new gas discovery will definitely place Cyprus among energy exporting states.
Though money from natural gas is not expected to start coming in earlier than four years from now, the bill was expedited by a decision of all Greek Cypriot political parties as an answer to a demand by Turkey that Turkish Cypriots be part of energy planning and have a say on how the money will be shared.
Turkish Cypriots have pulled out of the Cypriot government decades ago and have set up a breakaway state in the part of Cyprus occupied by Turkish troops in 1974, in response to a coup by the military rulers of Greece at the time.
The issue of how the proceeds will be shared was discussed and agreed in negotiations to reunite Cyprus. The two sides decided to share the proceeds according to structure of the population - about 80 percent for Greek Cypriots and 20 percent for Turkish Cypriots.
However, when the negotiations failed to reach a final agreement in July, 2017, Turkish Cypriots, allegedly prodded by Turkey, demanded to take part in the energy planning of the Cypriot government, which neither Turkey nor the Turkish Cypriots recognize.
The internationally recognized government ran by Greek Cypriots has refused to accommodate the demand on the grounds that allowing participation of Turkish Cypriots in the planning of the government would amount to turning the de facto partition of Cyprus into a de jure recognition of the existence of a second state.
To stave off the Turkish demand for participation in the planning and sharing, the Cypriot government decided to proceed with the setting up of the energy fund, to be known as the Investment National Fund.
The Fund was drafted on the model of a similar fund in Norway.
The bill setting up the Fund provides that the proceeds from natural gas will be saved for the welfare of future generation and will be shared among the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in the ratio of their population.