Developing natural gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean could be a catalyst for ending division on the island of Cyprus and transforming the geopolitical landscape in the broader region, a US committee of experts has been told.
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, which remains split along ethnic lines since a 1974 Turkish invasion.
“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.
In comments made at the same session, US energy envoy Amos Hochstein said that the Eastern Mediterranean remains “an underexplored and underdeveloped area” mostly due to the complicated geopolitical situation. However, the US diplomat said, a Cyprus peace deal could pave the way for a pipeline from Israel to Turkey via Cyprus.
Ankara, Hochstein said, “fully understands” the strategic implications of energy developments that are now part of ongoing negotiations to reunite the island.