Cyprus's newly-discovered wealth of offshore natural gas could boost the prospects for a peace settlement on the divided island, President Nicos Anastasiades has said a few days after Nicosia said it had picked Eni, Total and ExxonMobil for three exploration licenses.
In an interview with Kathimerini newspaper ahead of next month's crucial talks in Geneva, the Greek Cypriot leader said that the prospect of covering a significant part of Turkey's energy needs and of transforming his country into a regional energy hub could prompt Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan into making the much-needed concessions that would pave the way for a deal.
"The most important thing is for [Turkey] to become an energy hub. The normalization of ties with Israel and the need to get natural gas supplies from there, presupposes that that pipelines will run through Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Cyprus Republic may not have veto rights, but it can raise objections over the pipeline route," said Anastasiades, adding that Ankara could also be interested in the discovery of natural gas deposits.
"Turkey might show interest in buying natural gas from Cyprus; but the possible transfer of natural gas to the European Union could also be of interest to them, given their plans to become an energy hub," he said.
On Wednesday, Cyprus's Energy Ministry said that the government had awarded Eni and Total a joint exploration block. Eni also won another on its own while a third went to ExxonMobil in partnership with Qatar Petroleum, the ministry said.
In the same interview, Anastasiades repeated that the withdrawal of Turkish troops, stationed in northern Cyprus since 1974, was key to reaching an agreement, while stressing that Athens and Nicosia were on the same page regarding the negotiation process.
A multilateral summit on Cyprus will take place in Geneva on January 12.