Prospects for discovering natural gas off Cyprus is one of the key elements to reunifying the island, a US committee of energy experts was told.
Cyprus has been split since an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion and ongoing talks to negotiate a settlement have been sputtering again.
Addressing a recent hearing by the Committee on Foreign Affairs’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said that the discovery of natural gas in the region has the potential to be more than an economic boost to Cyprus, according to Kathimerini.
“Energy has emerged as the key incentive that can help resolve the Cyprus problem and end Turkey’s occupation of the northern part of Cyprus,” said Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the committee, who three months ago led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Cyprus and Israel.
“A potential pipeline carrying Cypriot and Israeli natural gas to and through Turkey could not only improve relations in the region, it could (also) be routed into Europe,” she said, adding that the creation of an additional corridor for gas supplies to Europe would reduce the continent’s dependency on Russian energy and curb Moscow’s influence in the area.
At the same event, US energy envoy Amos Hochstein said that the Eastern Mediterranean remains “an underexplored and underdeveloped area” because of the volatile politics in play, especially with Turkey demanding a share of any energy finds and having earlier sent in a warship and research vessel to make its points.
Hochstein said a Cyprus peace deal could pave the way for a pipeline from Israel to Turkey via Cyprus.
He said despite its contrary statements sometimes that Turkey “fully understands” the strategic implications of energy developments as part of the unification talks going on between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.