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Power Struggle in Commerce Ministry over Hydrocarbons

antoniadou kassinis fightSharp words are being exchanged in public between Commerce Minister Praxoula Antoniadou and Energy Director Solon Kassinis who are locked in a power struggle over gas and oil exploration.

The commerce minister "gets under our feet" and does not have the knowledge to properly handle the development of the gas and oil industry in Cyprus, said Kassinis in comments to Sigma TV. In turn, Antoniadou publicly criticised Kassinis for exceeding his authorisation and threatened to fire him.

Kassinis has called for an investigation to establish his qualifications, saying he has good feedback from all the companies he worked for.

"Here is a minister who denies a 33-year career," said Kassinis.

Antoniadou is trying to silence him by blocking him from important meetings and discussions on natural gas exploration: "I am director of energy and I have to inform the Cypriot people," said Kassinis.

The spat comes at a bad time, with an arms build-up in the Eastern Mediterranean from Turkey, Russia and Israel with all the inherent risks that go along with it. Turkey has sent three seismic research vessels to start undersea exploration for hydrocarbons in Cyprus waters, a move the government condemned as illegal.

Turkey's former ally Israel has quickly built up military cooperation with Cyprus and sent six military helicopters to Larnaca Airport as part of an exercise. Israel and Cyprus are cooperating in the field of hydrocarbons with Israeli company DELEK a close partner with US company Noble Energy which has a drilling rig set up in Block 12 of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

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