After signing a memorandum of understanding last year, the Mediterranean trio is taking the next formal step towards building a route for delivering billions of tons of fuel from the region to Europe. The move comes shortly after Turkey and Libya agreed to delineate maritime borders, affirming claims to the zone that the pipe might run through.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have joined the ceremony at which their countries’ energy ministers signed a trilateral gas agreement, formally moving ahead with building the EastMed pipeline to Europe. The summit, which also gathered Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, is taking place in Athens.
The 1,900-kilometre mega-route, the construction of which is estimated to cost $6 billion, is expected to satisfy about 10% of the EU’s gas needs. It will carry between nine and 12 billion cubic metres of natural gas from the newly discovered deposits in the south-eastern Mediterranean basin to Europe via Greece and Italy. Rome is also joining the agreement, but Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to sign it at another date.
IGI Poseidon SA, a joint venture of Greece’s state-owned Depa SA and the Italian company Edison SpA, controlled by the French conglomerate Électricité de France, is developing the project. On 2 January, the Greek giant also signed a letter of intent with another international company, Energean Oil and Gas Plc. for the potential sale and purchase of two billion cubic metres of natural gas per year, Bloomberg reports.
The moves follow years of discussions that resulted in Tel Aviv signing a memorandum of understanding in 2019 as the parties agreed to establish the export infrastructure. Before heading to Athens, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that the three countries’ collaboration “is of enormous importance to the state of Israel’s energy future and its development into an energy power and also from the point of view of stability in the region”.
While Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said that the project is not aimed against Turkey, pointing out their sovereign rights to the waters that the pipe will run through, Greek Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis branded EastMed “a project of peace and cooperation” despite “Turkish threats”, as cited by AFP.
The signing and trilateral summit comes shortly after Turkey and Libya signed an agreement in December to delineate their maritime borders and re-shape the exclusive economic zone through which the EastMed pipeline might cross. Cyprus, Greece, and Israel opposed the agreement, with Greece even expelling the Libyan ambassador. Athens, which argues that the agreement does not take the island of Crete into the account, called on the UN to condemn the deal.
The problem of Northern Cyprus, which has remained an apple of discord for Greece and Cyprus on the one side and Turkey on the other, is also fuelling the row. Ankara, which recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, claims that it has a right to the areas around the island, which are controlled by the two EU states, while Nicosia insists on exclusive economic rights over the waters. Turkey, in turn, sent warship-escorted drill ships there, prompting concern in Greece and Cyprus.