Gas dispute in the mediterranean: a pipeline project with explosive power?

The natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean are to be connected with western Europe. Cyprus, Greece and Israel signed a corresponding contract. An affront to Turkey?

Cyprus, Greece and Israel have signed an agreement in principle for the planned construction of the "Eastmed" Mediterranean gas pipeline. The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades attended a ceremony in the Greek capital of Athens to mark the signing of the agreement.

"Bridge for Europe"

"We are building a bridge that will bring energy to Europe," said Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis after the signing. The pipeline will stabilize the region and bring prosperity to the people, he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "It is a historic day for Israel." He called on other states in the region such as Egypt to participate in the project. All three politicians declared that this agreement would not be directed against other states such as Turkey.

Ankara feels snubbed

Ankara sees it differently. The government repeatedly stresses that this Israeli-Cypriot-Greek alliance is an attempt to encircle Turkey. Turkey will not allow projects of this kind in the Eastern Mediterranean without its participation and consent, the government in Ankara repeatedly affirmed.

Turkey recently signed agreements with Libya that set out military cooperation as well as sea borders in the Mediterranean. Turkey is thus laying claim to areas near the islands of Cyprus and Crete, where rich natural gas reserves are suspected.

Dispute over new gas reserves

The other neighboring countries of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt met with sharp criticism because they see their own rights in the region being violated. In recent years, gas reserves worth billions were discovered in the east of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Turkey is demanding a share in this and has dispatched several drill ships to the sea area.

In his New Year’s address, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said that the agreements with Libya had thwarted "projects aimed at completely excluding Turkey from the Mediterranean region".

The Eastern Mediterranean is becoming a bone of contention

Cyprus, Greece and Israel have now countered this by signing the treaty today. Israel plans to deliver natural gas to Europe via the "Eastmed" pipeline, which is a good 2,000 kilometers long and is to run through the Mediterranean Sea at a depth of up to 3,000 meters. The construction costs could amount to more than six billion euros. The pipeline will extend from Israel to Cyprus and from there to Crete on the Greek mainland. From there, natural gas will then be delivered to Italy via another natural gas pipeline. 

Next, the project is to be advertised, for which private investors can then apply. Israel expects the pipeline could start operating in 2025.

The project is supported by the USA and the EU. Washington stresses that this will make Europe less dependent on gas supplies from Russia.

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