Push for East Med gas pipeline to Europe
Cyprus, Israel, Greece vow to help in diversifying energy supplies
11 May, 2018
The leaders of Cyprus, Israel and Greece said at a meeting in Nicosia last Tuesday they want to push ahead with a planned pipeline that will supply east Mediterranean gas to Europe, as the continent seeks to diversify its energy supply, news wires reported. While Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu called the East Med pipeline a “very serious endeavour” that is important for Europe, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said the three countries aim to sign an agreement by the end of the year to push the project forward. According to Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, the project is emblematic of the cooperation between the three countries.
“This project creates an unrivalled network of common interests and clear strategic benefit for our countries and beyond, since its implementation will tangibly contribute to the security of the EU's energy supply,” Anastasiades said. The EU is looking favourably on the project, too, since the 28-member bloc has forked out €34.5m to fund a technical study, the Cypriot president pointed out.
The project was the centre piece of Tuesday's tripartite meeting between the leaders, their fourth since January 2016 when they agreed to hold such gatherings to strengthen ties. “We are building a great alliance, an alliance of good among our three democracies,” Netanyahu said. “You have to look only a few years back and it's almost inconceivable that our countries did not have this warm, intimate and direct contact,” he added.
The pipeline is estimated to take six to seven years to build. Among the pipeline's advantages, officials say, is that it won't have to cross many national borders and will be less vulnerable to sabotage. The pipeline would potentially carry gas from recently discovered deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, including in waters of Cyprus and Israel.
But an ownership squabble over the gas field is threatening to delay multi-billion dollar plans to turn the eastern Mediterranean into a major energy hub, Reuters commented. The Aphrodite gas field, discovered in 2011, lies at the edge of Cyprus' economic waters, but one tip of it stretches across the border into Israel's maritime zone.
According to one recent estimate in Israel, it stands for up to 7-10bn cubic metres of gas, worth close to $1.5bn. However, that is less than 10% of Aphrodite's total reserves and a fraction of the gas already discovered in Israel. Israel says it will not give up on the gas, and the companies operating on the Israeli side are ready for legal action in case Aphrodite is developed without them.
Aphrodite is smaller than two huge gas fields, Tamar and Leviathan, discovered in Israel around the same time, but it was a milestone for Cyprus. Developing it are Royal Dutch Shell, Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel's Delek Drilling. The field is also meant to be a link in the 2,000km pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Greece. A final investment decision on the pipeline, with an expected price tag of up to €6bn, could come next year.
The joint declaration after the meeting also referred to the Cyprus issue and Turkey's recent interventions into the island's exclusive economic zone without referring to Ankara by name. It rejected recent illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea which “are a serious cause for concern as they violate international law and are contrary to good neighbourly relations”. “In order for the dialogue to be creative and productive, Turkey should cease from taking any provocative steps or violations of the Republic of Cyprus' sovereign rights,” Anastasiades said.