Can Turkey offer an alternative to the EastMed pipeline?

Ankara comes after the United States withdrew from the ambitious but controversial Israel-Greece-Cyprus gas pipeline project.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that his government was open to talks about finding a way to transport Israeli gas from the Mediterranean Sea to Europe via Turkey.

“We can still do it,” he told reporters on his return from Albania, referring to a years-old proposal to sell gas from offshore Israeli fields to European buyers through a network of Turkish gas pipelines.

Erdogan’s comments follow reports that the United States no longer supports the ambitious EastMed gas pipeline.

The 1,900 km long EastMed pipeline never came off the drawing board. It would have crossed the bottom of the sea and crossed the land, connecting Israel, Greece and Cyprus.

But he dodged Turkey, which has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, and showed a willingness to participate in transnational energy projects.

“These are win-win types of projects for everyone. Turkiye can be part of any energy project in the region,” says Mehmet Dogan, who runs GazDay, an energy consultancy.

“[The] The best option for such a project to succeed is to bring Israeli gas to Turkey, which can consume some of it domestically and ship some of it to Europe,” he said. World TRT.

Map of maritime jurisdictions in the Eastern Mediterranean. (TRTWorld)

Turkey has long aimed to be an energy hub, hosting gas pipelines to meet the needs of European consumers.

Transnational pipelines from Russia to Azerbaijan use Turkish lands straddling the Asian continent and Europe.

The 1,850 km long Trans-Anatolian Pipeline known as TANAP, which crosses Turkey, connects Azerbaijan to Europe. Dogan says he has spare capacity that can be used to ship Israeli gas.

A chimera from the start

Experts had doubted that the EastMed pipeline was worth the investment and the headaches it had caused diplomats.

The pipeline would have taken the longest to go underwater and would have cost between $7 billion and $11 billion. A high project cost translates into higher gas bills for European consumers.

Conflicting claims over maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece required tedious and difficult negotiations before construction could even begin.

Washington’s support was crucial in resolving diplomatic and financial issues.

On January 10, a statement from the US Embassy in Greece on “East Med Energy Cooperation” makes no mention of the EastMed gas pipeline. Instead, he spoke of US support for power projects in the region.

In recent weeks, officials from US President Joe Biden’s administration have sent similar messages to Israel, Greece and Cyprus.

With the United States excluded and the EastMed pipeline suspended, there is a good chance that Turkey and Israel will seek closer ties, as Erdogan hinted, says Dr. Oktay Tanrisever, professor of international relations at the University Middle Eastern technique in Ankara.

“Turkiye and Israel have been trying to normalize relations for some time. But differences over the eastern Mediterranean continued to hamper them,” he says. TRT World.

“With the latest American contribution to history, the Israeli authorities now have some leeway. They can tell their Greek counterparts that they cannot be part of the project because the United States no longer supports it. This allows Israel to save face and allows it to cross from Greece to Turkey. »

Turkey’s relations with Israel were strained following the 2010 Gaza Flotilla raid in which Israeli soldiers killed nine Turkish militants trying to ship aid to the Palestinians.

But the two sides maintained diplomatic and economic ties while avoiding any serious escalation.

In 2016, Ankara and Tel Aviv were in talks to build a gas pipeline to connect Israeli gas to the Turkiye pipeline network for onward delivery to Europe.

The discovery of vast gas reserves off the coast of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea has shaped Tel Aviv’s diplomatic relations in the region.

Some officials see Israeli gas as Europe’s answer to reducing dependence on Russian imports of natural gas.

The European Union meets 40% of its natural gas needs with imports from Russia. However, differences over Ukraine and Crimea have raised concerns about EU energy security.

The EastMed pipeline would have passed through an area that Turkiye claims as its own under a 2019 maritime agreement with the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Libya.

Source: World TRT

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