The nations of Israel, Greece and Cyprus will sign a trilateral agreement on Thursday which will lay the groundwork for a planned 1,900-kilometer (1,181 mile) gas pipeline connecting Israel’s offshore natural gas fields with Europe.
The deal for the Eastern Mediterranean natural gas pipeline (“East Med”) will be signed in Athens between Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The project is being developed by IGI Poseidon SA, a joint venture of Greece’s state-owned natural gas supplier Depa SA and Edison SpA. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is set to sign the agreement at a later date.
The East Med pipeline project is actively supported both by the European Union and the United States, who believe that it can play an important role in Europe’s efforts to diversify its energy sources since it currently depends overwhelmingly on Russian resources.
The accord comes just as tensions are increasing in the region after Turkey’s contentious agreement which delineates maritime borders with Libya and affirms claims to areas of the Mediterranean the pipeline may cross. The three signatory countries all oppose that disputed accord.
The East Med pipeline agreement is not intended to send a message to Turkey, but to promote cooperation in the energy sector at a regional level, Greek Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said.
In a statement, the Greek Energy Ministry related that the pipeline will provide Greece with a distinct geopolitical advantage compared to alternative solutions for the distribution of North Mediterranean natural gas (such as a pipeline crossing Turkey or LNG facilities in Egypt), for several reasons.
Among them, it said, the pipeline will:
– upgrade Greece to a European-level transit hub
– create immediate direct and indirect benefits during all construction and operation phases
– open a new energy pathway that could cover Greek future deposits
– help the economic development of Greece and Cyprus and the competition in final natural gas prices
– improve the security of supply in Cyprus, Greece and Europe overall
However, Turkey is angry over what it sees as an attempt to exclude it from offshore oil and gas exploration, accusing rivals of carving up the Mediterranean Basin without negotiating with Ankara over contested maritime borders.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to spoil what he calls their “game to imprison Turkey within its land boundaries.”
Related: EastMed Pipeline: The Mediterranean Mega-Project That Will Change Europe’s Energy Map Forever