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Cyprus’ potential wealth from newly found offshore gas reserves could be used to partly fund a costly deal reunifying the island, Prsident Mustafa Akinci told The Associated Press in an interview.

Mustafa Akinci said natural gas could boost energy cooperation between Israel, Cyprus and Turkey and foster peace in a tumultuous region, but warned unilateral drilling by Greek Cypriots could re-ignite tensions. “Definitely gas is going to be an asset, if wisely prepared and conducted in a way not to trigger yet more tension in the area,” Akinci said.

“My understanding was that when we started the negotiation this was not going to create trouble for our process,” said Akinci. “Now I see the potential danger.” U.S. Company Noble Energy discovered a field around 100 miles (160 kilometres) south of Cyprus that’s estimated to contain more than four trillion cubic feet of gas. France’s Total and Eni along with its South Korean partner KOGAS are also licensed to drill off Cyprus. Akinci said “we are closer than ever before” to a peace deal, but the pace of negotiations has slowed down because of parliamentary elections in South Cyprus next month. He said Turkish Cypriots should remain a majority in the area that they will administer within an envisioned two-zone federation

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