Cyprus deal could herald energy cooperation in Med

Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades has said that a successful conclusion to the Cyprus negotiations could mean energy cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean.

Since the discovery of gas offshore Cyprus, Turkey has been suggesting that gas finds from the South and from Israel could be piped to the Turkish mainland. Turkey is a ready-made customer for gas and is currently one of Russia’s largest gas customers.

Equally, the South has been laying plans to build an LNG plant on the island at great expense. Piping gas to Turkey would be a cheaper alternative for both the South and Israel.

In an interview, Anastasiades said that healing the divide between North and South Cyprus could be pivotal to energy cooperation and a way to ease relations between Turkey and Israel.

The “Mavimara” incident in May 2010, in which 9 Turks were killed by Israeli commando fire caused a breach in Turkish/Israeli relations. Last years, an apology was accepted by the Turkish government but issues of compensation are still being negotiated.

“A Cyprus settlement, reached as quickly as possible, will assist not only in an Israeli [gas export] planning, but also contribute greatly to restoring relations with Turkey,” Anastasiades said.

Anastasiades confirmed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might visit Cyprus in the Spring to discuss ways to achieve closer cooperation. His visit to the island would be a notable one in that it would only be the second time that an Israeli premier will have visited the island since the creation of Israel in 1948.

“This would be very significant for Turkey and at the same time significant for Israel and it could be another way Cyprus contributes to peace in the region,” he said.

President Anastasiades said that sealing a deal would eradicate a fundamental political block to exporting gas to Turkey. Turkey does not recognise South Cyprus as a sovereign state and also claims some of the South’s EEZ’s as its own.

With a settlement on the Cyprus issue, the neighbouring countries – a reunified Cyprus, Israel and Turkey could find great advantages in distributing gas via the Turkish mainland from the eastern Mediterranean.

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