Last January, Turkey warned Israel that a potential gas pipeline between Israel and Turkey could be scuttled if Israel were to make a deal with Cyprus on natural gas. The recent rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, culminating in Israel apologizing to Turkey over the deaths of nine Turkish activists aboard a Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza in 2010, upset the Cypriots. Nicosia read it as an indication that Israel might prefer to work with Turkey rather than with Cyprus.
Last week, the Turks told Cyprus that its best chance to get its natural gas to the global market is to do so through Turkey. Ankara warned Cyprus that to exploit its natural gas riches without considering Turkish claims would be difficult. But Ioannis Kasoulides, the Cypriot Foreign Minister, adamantly challenged the suggestion that Cyprus should ferry its gas to Turkey for further distribution. Israel’s apology over the flotilla incident, he said, “doesn’t mean Israel is obliged to follow what Turkey is dictating in this region.” He added that Cyprus would be able to exploit its resources, regardless of whether Israel decides to be its partner in the project.
Nevertheless, the Cypriots realize that without Israel they would face an almost impossible task. Minister Kasoulides is visiting Israel this week with the Cypriot Energy Minister to discuss the gas exploitation. Later this month, President Anastasiades, too, will travel to Israel. If Israel plays this right, it will be able to use its own as well as Cyprus’s gas reserves to its geopolitical ends. Perhaps natural gas – and, who knows, the oil deposits beneath the gas finds of 2009-2011 — might soon be of great use (not just financially) to the Jewish state — thanks to Moses.
Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.
About the Author: Peter Martino is a European affairs columnist for the Gatestone Institute.
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