US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Erika Olson, has told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that there is no political aspect in the US position on the EastMed pipeline project, adding that her country favors projects that will enable the clean energy transition and connect energy markets in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The US diplomat said that her country remains very engaged and supportive of energy interconnection within the Eastern Mediterranean. "We believe that interconnectivity of energy infrastructure is important to the stability and to the future of not just energy sharing but also security in the region. We believe that exports of electricity among the Eastern Mediterranean countries and onward to Europe are really the path of the future," she noted.
She went on to say that "we support projects such as the EuroAfrica Interconnector, which connects Egypt to Cyprus and Greece, and the proposed EuroAsia Interconnector to link Israel, Cyprus and European electricity grids. Because such projects not only connect vital energy markets, but they also prepare the region for the clean energy transition."
"So, at a time when energy security is more than ever a question of national security, we are committed to deepening our relationships in promoting these clean energy technologies"
"So, at a time when energy security is more than ever a question of national security, we are committed to deepening our relationships in promoting these clean energy technologies. So what you see from us is, given the reality of the future of what energy looks like globally, a move towards projects that will enable the clean energy transition and connect energy markets in the region," she added.
When asked if the EastMed project should be abandoned, Olson noted that “the US has always said that we support projects in the Eastern Mediterranean that are commercially and technically feasible.”
Asked whether or not this was a matter of feasibility she replied: “Absolutely. And looking at the future of energy markets.” She stressed that "what we don’t want to see is essentially abandoned projects that don’t fit the need of what future energy markets look like," and noted the importance of electricity interconnectors rather than ambitious pipeline projects. "So, we believe that resources and technical feasibility work are much better placed focusing on the electricity interconnectors," she added.
Olson reiterated that the US position on the EastMed had no political aspect, saying, “It is really based on the Biden administration’s dedication to moving towards clean energy, combating climate change, and the economic realities of what an energy market might look like 20 or 30 years from now, which is one that we all hope is much more focused on clean energy and renewables".
Asked about the 3+1 cooperation scheme (Cyprus, Greece, Israel + the US) and the prospects for its further advancement, she stressed that "we are strongly supportive of the 3+1 concept with Cyprus, Greece and Israel. When Foreign Minister Kasoulides was in Washington and saw Secretary Blinken, Secretary Blinken again reaffirmed our support for the 3+1. That is also one of the things that I am talking about during this visit, both here in Cyprus and also when I go on to Greece, and how we can do more within that framework at senior but also at technical levels."
She also said that "within the 3+1 construct there are many working groups, including one on energy infrastructure, which is an excellent place for us to talk about the future of what the energy looks like in the Eastern Mediterranean."
Invited to say in which other fields the bilateral cooperation between the US and Cyprus could further be developed, Olson said that “the sky is the limit. I think there are so many different areas in which we can deepen our relationship. I think we find ourselves now at a point where our relationship is stronger than, perhaps, it has ever been."
She went on to say that "we want to continue to build upon that and strengthen our relationship, whether it is cultural, economic. We are very excited about the number of Cypriot students who are looking to study at US universities. More than 3 million dollars in scholarships were given to Cypriot students to study in the US".
She said that economics is also another important sector of cooperation, noting that “we are very proud that two of our leading energy companies are involved in the energy industry in Cyprus. And I think we see even more opportunities for US companies to work together with Cypriot companies for investment and development."
"And that also fits into the science and technology work that we are supporting," she added, noting that the signing of a Science and Technology Agreement between the US and Cyprus during her visit to the island is an exciting advancement in their bilateral cooperation.
Moreover, she said that "on security, we continue to look for opportunities to train together and strengthen our interoperability going forward."
Ms. Olsen affirmed that Cyprus is an important partner of the US in the region, adding that “we are working together not just in the region but also globally and my visit to the island has only just strengthened my belief in that.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.