Auspicious meetings were held in Nicosia, Cyprus with members of the emerging Trilateral Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline alliance: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Watch this Jerusalem Post news video of the historic triple alliance meeting in Nicosia:
The Jerusalem Post reported the triple alliance leaders announcing plans to set up the long delayed Eastern Mediterranean gas pipeline:
NICOSIA – Israel, Cyprus and Greece decided at their first ever tripartite meeting to set up a steering committee to look into laying a gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus, and then to Greece for further export to Europe.
The decision was announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing next to Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Each leader delivered a statement noting the historic nature of the meeting, and highlighting the possibilities this emerging alliance has for the region. They did not answer any questions from the press.
While both Anastasiades and Tsipras stressed, without mentioning Turkey by name, that this cooperation was not “against anyone else,” Netanyahu did not make a reference at all to Turkey, either directly or indirectly.
National Infrastructure, Water and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was part of the Israeli delegation, told reporters on the plane en route to Nicosia that Israel wanted to have the ability to export the gas both through Greece and Turkey. Laying the pipeline to Turkey is considerably cheaper than through Cyprus and Greece.
Anastasiades, as host of the summit, spoke first, and said this cooperation was based on an appreciation that “it is imperative to work collectively through coordination.” He said that the three leaders signed a joint declaration, which he termed a “historic document” that deals with cooperation in the energy, tourism, research, water-management, anti-terrorism and immigration spheres. He said that a trilateral steering committee will monitor the agreement.
Netanyahu, who said that as the son of a historian he was averse to using the term “historic,” said that the term did however fit the meeting. “I believe this meeting has historic implications,” he said. “The Last time Greeks, Cypriots and Jews sat around a table and talked about a common framework was 2,000 years ago.”
In addition to the gas pipeline, Netanyahu also spoke of a plan to lay an underwater cable to connect the electric grids of all three countries. “You can export gas through electricity,” he said.
Tsipras said that cooperation with Israel and Cyprus was a “strategic choice” for Athens.
In a January 2015, New English Review article, “Could Israel Lose the Energy Prize in the Eastern Mediterranean,” we noted this about the prospects for the Triple Alliance Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline.
“On December 9, 2014, Israel, Cyprus and Greece pitched the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline a day before a conference organized jointly byNatural Gas Europe, the Greek Energy Forum, ESCP Europe, RCEM and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The conference was titled “2030 EU Energy Security, the Role of the Eastern Mediterranean Region” and took place at EESC headquarters in Brussels. Natural Gas Europe in an article on the EESC conference noted the comments of Greek Energy Minister, Ioannis Maniatis:
Europe will need an extra 100 bcm of natural gas in the next 15 years, and in light of Europe’s increasing dependence on imports to fulfill its energy needs, the EU must find a sustainable model to ensure it is a competitive economy.
The EU needs to reduce external dependence, increase efficiency, diversify its sources and routes of supply, and improve interconnectors, he added. Fully connected energy grids, greater transparency, good governance and a thorough understanding of global events should also be the focus of the EU according to Maniatis. He explained that Greece’s importance is growing. The East Med pipeline pitched by Israel, Cyprus and Greece would run from Israel and Cyprus via Greece to Italy and then to the rest of Europe is technically feasible and attached to attractive prospects said Maniatis. He told the audience that the results of a feasibility study on the East Med pipeline will be released next year and that the pipeline would serve as a new source and provider of natural gas comparable to the Southern Corridor. The attractiveness of the East Med Pipeline, said Maniatis, is that unlike the Southern Corridor, it would pass exclusively through four member states and hence deserves strong EU backing for its materialization.
The Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline had received the endorsement of the EC as a priority project for underwriting in November 2013. According to The Guardian that could provide the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project “access to a €5.85bn fund, and preferential treatment from multilateral banks.”
Natural Gas Europe reported at the time the options under consideration:
- To the Peloponnesus Peninsula joint via spur with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)
- From Crete to northern Greece where it would join the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB)
- From Crete to the Revythousa LNG terminal close to Athens. The terminal would be significantly upgraded to accommodate large amounts of gas exports thereafter.
The technically difficult 1,880 kilometer long submarine pipeline project, reaching depths of more than 2,000 meters, would connect Leviathan and Aphrodite gas fields ultimately to Italy. Cost for the project was estimated at over $20 Billion and would likely not be concluded at the earliest until 2020, assuming that production of the Leviathan field in the Israeli EEZ begins in 2017. With the demise of both the Turkish Leviathan-Ceyhan pipeline and the Australian Woodside Pty. Ashdod LNG –Eilat pipeline for delivery of gas to the Asian markets, the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project may have serious consideration. There is the alternative of the onshore LNG facility at Vassilikos on Cyprus’ south shore to be built by the Consortium at an estimated cost of $10 billion. A Memorandum of Understanding for planning the Vassilikos LNG complex was signed by Cyprus and the Consortium in June 2013. In the interim, offshore floating LNG processing platforms that might be leased to ship processed gas via pressured LNG vessels to receiving terminals in Greece and Italy. However, Noble Energy was not initially supportive of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline option, instead concentrating on sales from Leviathan to regional users like Jordan and Egypt and building the proposed Cypriot LNG processing facility.”
Israel has overcome the ruling of its former Anti Trust Authority general director, approving an offshore gas development plan with US Partner Noble Energy, inc. and Israeli partner Delek Group involving the Leviathan, Tamar and adjacent Aphrodite gas fields in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone. With yesterday’s announcement in Nicosia by the Triple Alliance of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, a way can now be seen to go forward with the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline and the LNG facility in Cyprus. At the time we wrote the January 2015 NER article, Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan had announced a $12 billion Turkey Stream pipeline deal to supply Europe with natural gas. Given the break off in relations between Russia and Turkey over the latter’s downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber, Putin has suspended the project. That sent Erdogan scrambling to re-open diplomatic relations with Jerusalem seeking supplies of Israeli gas. The dour circumstances propounded in our January 2015 article appear to be lifted by the geo-resource and political wars in the Syrian and ISIS conflicts. That is enhanced by the settlement of Israel’s plan for development and distribution of its offshore gas and oil fields.
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.