Israel Nearing Energy Accord With Cyprus and Greece

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu talk during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday. (Petros Karadjias/Pool via REUTERS)

Israel is on the verge of finalizing a significant energy agreement with Greece and Cyprus, encompassing a massive electricity project to interconnect the power grids of these three nations and the potential development of a regional natural gas pipeline in the Eastern Mediterranean.

This forthcoming agreement reflects the strengthening relations between Israel and both Cyprus and Greece in various sectors, including energy, defense, tourism, high-tech and cybersecurity.

This international energy venture is poised to make the Eastern Mediterranean a crucial energy supplier to Europe, particularly as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia have created a global energy crisis, impacting the European Union and highlighting its reliance on foreign energy sources.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Nicosia, “The partnership between our three countries becomes stronger with each passing year.” He emphasized the solidity of their strategic partnership and friendship.

A high-level government meeting in Cyprus is expected to be the concluding round of discussions among leaders before the agreement is officially announced.

The initial aspect of the agreement involves linking the three countries’ electrical grids, often referred to as an “energy highway.” This project will entail a 2,000-megawatt undersea cable, which, upon completion, will be the world’s longest and deepest underwater electricity cable, connecting Asia and Europe via the Mediterranean seabed.

Additionally, discussions are underway regarding cooperation in the field of natural gas, which hinges on the discovery of substantial offshore natural gas deposits. These reserves are seen as a potential energy corridor to Europe, extending to Arab countries in the region.

Various options are being considered, including the construction of a natural gas pipeline between the three countries, known as the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline (EastMed). Other possibilities include establishing a liquefaction plant in Cyprus, a floating liquefaction plant in Israeli waters, or, pending the geopolitical situation with Ankara, a natural gas pipeline to Turkey that could potentially traverse Cyprus and connect to Azerbaijani gas.

The feasibility of the proposed 1,900-kilometer, $6 billion EastMed pipeline is still under evaluation, with some doubts about its financial viability. Professor Andreas Theophanous from the University of Nicosia noted that there are both political and economic factors at play, and while the project may face economic challenges, it represents a starting point and also depends on Turkey’s policies toward Cyprus and Israel.

The trilateral summit in Cyprus, initially scheduled for last month but postponed due to Netanyahu’s hospitalization, is a significant step in solidifying these energy and political alliances. Cyprus and Israel have also announced plans for a full government-to-government minister’s meeting in Israel early next year.

Furthermore, in a sign of warming relations with Ankara, Netanyahu is set to visit Turkey, marking the first such visit in over 15 years. This suggests a regional push to involve Turkey in future energy deals.

Energy Minister Yisrael Katz held separate talks with his Turkish and Egyptian counterparts, as well as with the U.S. envoy for regional normalization efforts, following discussions with the Greek and Cypriot energy ministers.

Israel has also expressed support for a European initiative to establish a regional firefighting force and emergency center in Cyprus, and there have been suggestions of the three countries jointly considering the purchase of a supertanker firefighting aircraft.

Netanyahu concluded by emphasizing the profound friendship that has developed between the three nations over the past decade, rooted in shared values and history.

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