By Justin Sink - 05/22/14 11:52 AM EDT
Vice President Biden told Cyprus during a visit to the island nation on Thursday that it could become a "global hub" for the production of natural gas.
Hailing the country as "uniquely situated at a critical time in modern history," Biden said oil and natural gas reserves that experts believe lie in the seabed south of Cyprus could help propel it to new prominence on the world stage.
“The discovery of hydrocarbons in the Cyprus exclusive economic zone have the potential to transform the regional political landscape," Anastasiades said.
The U.S. is eager to encourage European nations to develop their own natural gas resources to wean dependence on Russia, which is a leading energy provider to much of the continent.
Moscow has threatened to disrupt gas flows to Ukraine amid political turbulence that saw the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and the subsequent annexation of Crimea by Russian forces.
Russian energy giant Gazprom has said that unless Kiev pays $3.5 billion in back payments, it could cut off energy to Ukraine at the end of the month. The energy giant also attempted to nearly double natural gas rates for Ukraine.
On Wednesday, the European Union asked Moscow to negotiate a settlement and agree on a new, market price for future gas price.
"It is imperative that all sides continue to engage in this process constructively and also agree on a future price that reflects market conditions. As long as the trilateral talks are on-going, gas flows should not be interrupted," European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.