Israel Okays Tripartite Gas Deal as Cyprus Warns of Turkey

israel cyprus greece gas
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference with President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades (L), and Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras (R), at the David’s CItadel Hotel in Jerusalem, in March 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The Israeli government approved on Sunday a deal with Cyprus and Greece to build the landmark Eastern Mediterranean pipeline.

The project, which aims to supply natural gas to southern Europe, was signed by Israel in January and has now been ratified.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz hailed it as “another milestone in our efforts to turn Israel into an energy exporter — which will bring in tens of billions for the good of the country and its citizens in years to come.”

However, visions of regional prosperity are clouded by Turkey, which recently signed a pact with Libya, claiming exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean Sea, where the three countries intend to run the pipeline. Istanbul has contested the maritime rights in the area and threatened to back up its claims with force if necessary.

The Greek Ambassador to Israel, Panagiotis Sarris, said on Sunday that the EastMed pipeline “turns energy into a catalyst for regional cooperation and stability, for the benefit of all. We want Turkey as an equal partner and not as the neighborhood bully, but this is currently proving difficult,” Sarris told The Jerusalem Post.

“Turkey has threatened to drill seven miles off the coast of Crete, a Greek island home to over a million people,” he said. “These waters are within Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and drilling there would be a provocative violation of international law.”

Greece would be obliged to defend the sovereignty of its waters and territory,” Sarris said, adding that Turkey has used its agreement with Libya to justify ”its aggressive rhetoric.”

The Greek envoy dismissed Turkish claims, saying that one has only to “examine a map” to understand that “this is nonsense” and that the Turkey Libyan memorandum of understanding is “null and void.” he said.

“Such expansionist moves by Turkey are a significant shared security concern for Greece, Israel and Cyprus,” Sarris said, according to the Post.

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