Israel says it backs Cyprus gas exploration
NICOSIA (Reuters) – Israel said yesterday it supported attempts by neighboring Cyprus to carry out natural gas exploration offshore, in spite of objections from Turkey challenging the endeavor. Cyprus, a member of the European Union, has discovered sizable gas deposits south of the island toward Israel, which has made massive hydrocarbon finds in the past decade. Nicosia has accused Ankara, which does not recognize Cyprus, of dispatching a research vessel to collect seismic data, a precursor for possible explorations. “We respect the integrity of Cyprus. You have your exclusive rights to explore in your economic zone for gas or oil reserves and we think it’s unnecessary to add other tensions to the problems of the Middle East,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters in Nicosia. “I hope that the EU has enough power to be a real mediator and to take a reasonable position regarding the gas dispute and exploration in [Cyprus’s] economic zone,” he said.