US backs Cyprus in east Mediterranean energy duel with Turkey: report

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U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Francis Fannon, right, and Cyprus' Energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis talk during a meeting of Israeli, Cypriot and Greek experts working on boosting safety and security in offshore oil and gas drilling in Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

The US backs energy-based partnerships in the eastern Mediterranean that bolster political cooperation and prosperity and is urging against “provocative actions” that undermine stability, a government official said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Francis Fannon said his government supports Cyprus’ right to develop its energy resources and for proceeds to be divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots as part of a deal reunifying the ethnically divided island nation.

The remarks come amid tensions over Turkey’s more aggressive push to search for natural gas search in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

“We urge all parties to not take any provocative actions that could create any further instability. And we’re firm on that,” Fannon said ahead of a gathering of Israeli, Greek and Cypriot experts discussing ways to boost safety and security in offshore gas drilling.

Fannon said Cyprus has an “incredibly important role” to play in developing energy supplies in the eastern Mediterranean that officials say could help lessen Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement last month to move ahead with construction of an undersea pipeline to deliver gas to European markets.

Turkey has dispatched warship-escorted drill ships and research vessels inside Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, including in areas where energy companies Eni of Italy and France’s Total are licensed to carry out exploratory drilling.

Cyprus has also licensed ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum to drill inside its economic zone.

Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state, insists it’s acting to protect its rights and those of Turkish Cypriots to the area’s energy reserves and has offered to share proceeds if it discovers any gas.

Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot breakaway state that was declared after a 1974 Turkish occupation of Cyprus triggered by a coup aiming at union with Greece.

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