The US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee voted to advance a bill that would bolster energy cooperation with Israel, Cyprus and Greece in the East Med, meaning it can now be put to a vote in congress.
The bills endorsement came just hours after Turkey sent a second drill ship to explore for hydrocarbons in waters off Northern Cyprus, a breakaway nation only recognized by Ankara.
The East Med Act is partially a rebuke of Turkey’s increasingly belligerent activities in the East Med, which have been condemned by the US and the European Union. Ankara says it is simply asserting its rights to its share of the large hydrocarbon finds made around the island.
The bill would lift an embargo on US arms sales to Cyprus, and establish the United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center, to facilitate energy cooperation between the US and the three nations.
U.S oil giant ExxonMobil has already led exploratory drilling in Cyprus and has expressed interest in the Israeli market. While US companies prequalified in Lebanon’s first licensing round, they did not submit bids.
Following a meeting with a senior US official in June, Energy Minister Nada Boustani said that the U.S was “encouraging” its companies to submit bids in Lebanon for its second offshore licensing round, which was launched in April.