Reuters International

ATHENS (Reuters) - Turkey needs to mend relations with Cyprus before the Cypriot government will allow a Turkish-Israel gas pipeline to cross its territory, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Israel reported massive natural gas discoveries in 2010 and is exploring export outlets, among which is a pipeline to Turkey. But to reach Turkey a pipeline would have to traverse the territorial waters of Cyprus, which was split into ethnic Greek and Turkish enclaves by a Turkish invasion in 1974.

"Everyone understands that it's not possible for a state under occupation to approve a pipeline going to the occupying power," said Nicos Christodoulides, the Cypriot government spokesman.

No overtures have been made concerning such a pipeline. "There must be a solution to the Cyprus problem before that scenario is examined," Christodoulides said in Nicosia.

Cyprus and Turkey do not have diplomatic relations. But Greek Cypriots, who run the island's internationally recognised government, are engaged in reunification talks with the Turkish enclave in northern Cyprus.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas, editing by Larry King)

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