ENERGY: Cyprus-Greece-Israel-US cement East Med security partnership

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Cyprus, Greece, Israel and the United States agreed to enhance cooperation in energy, cyber and infrastructure security, after ministerial summit in Athens.

Greek Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis hosted Wednesday’s first energy summit of the four countries that underline the growing importance of hydrocarbon wealth and need for stability in the region.

Natural gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean have rendered the region a viable alternative energy source for Europe, but also exposed long-simmering disputes between neighbours jostling for rights over resources.

East Med regional tripartite summits between Israel and Cyprus, which have made discoveries, and Greece, keen to be a hub, have recently been extended to include the United States.

“Energy can be a bridge for broader political stability,” U.S. Assistant Energy Secretary Frank Fannon told reporters.

Cypriot Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said he had received assurances from his Israeli, Greek and U.S. counterparts of full support over Cyprus’ right to search for natural resources.

Turkey, which has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus, disputes the EU-member state’s right to explore for natural gas, staking a claim over offshore areas that breach the island’s designated maritime zone.

Ankara has dispatched two drill ships east and west of the island, a move Cyprus says is a violation of international law and triggered EU sanctions against Turkey.