Turkey, reliant on costly imports and keen to play a role in the exploitation of recent natural gas finds off the coast of Israel and Cyprus, needs to invest in infrastructure if it wants to participate in the new energy economy in the eastern Mediterranean.

Fatih Birol, a chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA), said that Turkey is also being eyed as a possible overland route to European markets, further adding to the need for domestic investment. 

There's currently a debate about how to transport and commercialize the new-found resource. Israel is deciding how much natural gas should be exported and whether or not to pipe the natural gas to Turkey or to build its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal.

A decision on how to move natural gas to markets would be based on efficiency and cost factors.

That is why Birol said Turkey should develop its own LNG infrastructure to guarantee the necessary conditions for the private sector. “This would give a chance to Turkey to benefit from global market operations more and increase its energy supply safety,” Birol told Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

He said that the recent finds can turn the region into a “sea of prosperity,” but warned that politics “may supersede the economy,” referencing the shaky relationship between Turkey and Israel as well as Greece-Cyprus.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Eastern Mediterranean basin contains 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.