Italy's Eni says drilling off Cyprus to start next year

NICOSIA, Cyprus – The chief executive of Italian oil and gas company Eni says exploratory drilling off Cyprus’ southern shore will begin next year.

Claudio Descalzi said after talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades Tuesday that drilling will “for sure” start in 2017.

Descalzi said the eastern Mediterranean’s gas potential is “becoming more and more important” following the recent discovery of significant gas fields in Egyptian and Israeli waters.

Eni has the rights to drill off Cyprus in three blocks, or areas. Eni last year discovered a gas field off Egypt that it called the biggest find ever in the Mediterranean Sea.

Descalzi said he discussed with Anastasiades a third drilling licensing round whose deadline is July 22.

U.S. company Noble Energy and France’s Total are also licensed to drill off Cyprus.