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Israel, Cyprus Agree to Offshore Boundaries

A deal between Israel and Cyprus is expected to clear the way for new exploration and development of underwater natural gas reserves.

Representatives from the two countries signed the agreement Friday in the Greek Cypriot capital of Nicosia.

The agreement defines the sea border between the two nations and allows Israel and Cyprus to start pursuing natural resources within their territory.

Cyprus has signed similar deals with Egypt and Lebanon, but the deal with Lebanon has yet to be ratified by the Lebanese parliament.

Cypriot officials have already licensed U.S.-based Noble Energy to begin exploring part of the underwater area.

Noble Energy is also working neighboring natural fields in Israeli territory which are due to start producing in 2012.

The company says fields on both the Israeli and Cypriot sides of the maritime border could produce billions of cubic meters of natural gas over the next few years.

Turkey has voiced disapproval of Nicosia's oil and natural gas ventures.

Turkish forces invaded Cyprus in 1974, in response to a coup by Greek Cypriots trying to unite Cyprus with Greece.

Since then, the northern third of the island has remained under Turkish control, guarded by Turkish troops.

Reunification talks between the two sides have dragged on for 36 years.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.