East Mediterranean natural gas “warms up diplomacy”

Recent natural gas discoveries in Eastern Mediterranean are expected to play a key role in Cyprus peace talks.

Recent natural gas discoveries in Eastern Mediterranean are expected to play a key role in Cyprus peace talks.

By Emre Gurkan Abay

ANKARA - Natural gas reserves discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean could provide a new catalyst for Cyprus peace talks, analysts say.

After the financial crisis in 2013, Greek Cypriots have been hoping to lift its economy by exporting newly-found natural gas reserves in the “exclusive economic zone” named Aphrodite.

Analysts indicate that a pipeline to Turkey from the Aphrodite field is currently the most economical way for the gas to enter international markets.

Energy experts maintain that a Cyprus settlement, together with normalized ties between Turkey and Israel, will turn the Eastern Mediterranean into a new source of energy for the international markets.

“The newly-found natural gas in the East Mediterranean has provided a new catalyst for peace and cooperation in the region,” researcher in International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), Hasan Selim Ozertem said.

The Cyprus peace talks, which have been stalled since January 2012, are set to resume after the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and Greek Cypriot leaders agreed last week on a joint declaration.

The distribution of the gas found in Aphrodite is among the most important topics in the regional countries. Fields licensed by Greek Cypriots for the search of natural gas, coincide with the fields licensed by TRNC.

This issue is considered to be a major obstacle that needs to be overcome during the Cyprus peace talks. “Turkey strongly believes in a structure which will distribute the income from energy resources to both sides in Cyprus rightfully," Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz recently stated.

The Leviathan gas field off the coast of Israel is another major gas hub in the region that has been recently discovered.

“Turkey is currently holding talks in order to increase its pipeline capacities as well as renewing the complete substructure,” Ozertem said.

“Considering these, Turkey is also a very strong candidate to become a transit route for natural gas to reach European markets.”

The recently discovered natural gas in the Levant Basin located in Israeli and Cypriot waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, amounts to 500 billion cubic meters and Turkey’s yearly natural gas consumption in 2013 was nearly 46 billion cubic meters.

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