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US says Cyprus has key role in East Med energy

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Washington believes Cyprus has a key role to play in East Med energy supply but warned all sides not to create further instability in the region as tensions run high over Turkey’s illegal drilling activity.

“Cyprus has an incredibly important role to play in this new energy corridor that is still developing throughout the region,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, Francis Fannon.

“We urge all parties to not take any provocative actions that could create further any instability. And we’re steadfast on that,” he added.

He made the comments before a gathering of Israeli, Greek and Cypriot technical experts in Nicosia to discuss ways to boost safety and security in offshore gas drilling.

Fannon’s visit coincides with Turkey upping the ante by pushing ahead with drilling activity in Cyprus’ designated exclusive economic zone which the European Union has warned against with the threat of sanctions.

The senior US official said that energy resources are a “catalyst for cooperation” and that the United States remain committed at the highest level.

“We support the Republic of Cyprus to develop its resources in its EEZ,” said Fannon.

He said revenues generated from energy should benefit both communities in the context of an overall settlement.

Fannon said that he was proud American companies are engaged in all aspects of regional cooperation, helping countries to develop their own energy pathways through this cooperative model.

Last year, US energy giant ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum discovered the largest natural gas reserve off the coast of Cyprus, holding an estimated five to eight trillion cubic feet.

Italy’s ENI and Total of France are also heavily involved in exploring for oil and gas off Cyprus.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed last month an agreement to move ahead with construction of an ambitious €6 billion undersea 2000 km EastMed pipeline to deliver gas to European markets.

Cyprus Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said the support of the US in creating an Eastern Mediterranean corridor is “profound and solid”.

“Cooperation among our three countries (Cyprus, Greece, Israel) plus the US is very important,” Lakkotrypis said.

“In contrast to this positive outlook, Turkey acts as a spoiler through its continued illegal exploration activities in the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, escalating since last May and clearly violating international law,” he added.

Turkey insists the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — recognised only by Ankara — has the right to explore around the entire island.

UN-backed talks on reunifying the island as a bizonal, bi-communal federation collapsed in July 2017 and have not resumed, in part because of deep divisions over offshore gas.

The Cyprus government has no diplomatic relations with Turkey, which dismisses it as an exclusively Greek Cypriot administration.

Wednesday’s 3+1 meeting looked at emergency preparedness and responses mechanisms for offshore oil and gas operations.

Fannon is expected to go to visit Ankara and Cairo for contacts after departing Cyprus on Thursday.