Britain said on Friday it hoped the discovery of valuable gas fields around Cyprus would eventually help unite the island's ethnically-divided communities, after decades of diplomacy had failed to clinch a peace deal.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the prospect of sharing the resources could persuade politicians to end the bitter dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots on the island split by war in 1974.
Up to now, the natural gas discoveries in the past year have had the opposite effect. Arguments over the ownership of the fields has deepened the split.
Turkey, which controls the Turkish Cypriot side of the divide island, sent warships to the region when the Greek Cypriot side started drilling.
"We have supported the rights of Cyprus to develop resources but I hope that doing so can somehow be an incentive for the settlement of the problem, rather than a disincentive," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters in Nicosia.
"It should be something that helps with a settlement ... It should be regarded in that way by all involved," he said after a meeting with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias at the presidential palace.
Negotiations are now effectively on hold as Cyprus holds the rotating EU presidency, but there are deep differences between the sides on power-sharing and the rights of thousands uprooted in fighting.
Hague said Britain was ready to help reunification talks. "We hope of course that faster progress will be made in the future," he said.
William Hague also urged the European Union on Friday to impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, as Israel continues to threaten military action.
"It is necessary to increase pressure on Iran, to intensify sanctions, to add further to EU sanctions that are already enforced," Hague told reporters before a meeting of EU foreign ministers in the southern coastal town of Paphos.
He did not specify what form any new sanctions would take or whether the ministers would discuss the issue in detail.
The EU implemented its latest round of sanctions on Iran in July, banning oil imports from the Islamic Republic. The United States is applying increasing diplomatic pressure around the world to isolate the Iranian economy.
The sanctions are aimed at forcing Iran to curb the nuclear work the West believes is aimed at developing atomic weapons capability, something Tehran denies.
Israel, believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, sees the possibility of Iran getting the bomb as a threat to its existence and has said it may use military means if diplomacy and sanctions fail.
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