World Bulletin/News Desk
Israel's newfound natural gas reserves will boost its regional clout and could help it improve ties with neighbouring states in need of new energy sources, Energy Minister Silvan Shalom said.
Once totally dependent on fuel imports, Israel has made the largest gas discoveries in the world over the past decade off its Mediterranean coastline, and is expected to become an exporter by the end of the decade.
"Gas gives you much more power than you had. It is something that is very helpful in the geopolitical arena and helps to narrow the gaps," Shalom, who also serves as Israel's minister for regional development, told Reuters in an interview.
"It is a tool we can use in a sensitive and very clever way to enable us to develop relations ... and to have better relations with many other countries," he added when asked if future gas trade could warm up chilly Israeli-Turkish ties.
Encouraged by the United States, the two countries announced in March they were working to improve relations after Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in 2010 and killed nine Turks.
The diplomatic detente has raised speculation that a pipeline could one day be built to carry Israeli gas across Turkey and on to eastern Europe, which depends heavily on Russia for gas supplies at present.
Shalom, a former foreign minister and veteran member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, declined to discuss the issue. But he revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had raised the question of Israel's gas projects only last week.
A U.S.-Israeli group announced earlier this month that it had discovered positive signs of another natural gas field off Israel's coast that could contain 2 tcf of gas.Last Mod: 22 Mayıs 2013, 15:10