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January 2, 2020 2:38 pm

Netanyahu Hails ‘Historic Day’ as Israel, Greece and Cyprus Sign EastMed Gas Pipeline Deal

avatar by Algemeiner Staff and Agencies

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend the signing of a deal by Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Greek Energy Greek Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis and Israeli Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, to build the EastMed subsea pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, at the Zappeion Hall in Athens, Greece, Jan. 2, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis.

Israel, Greece and Cyprus on Thursday signed a deal to build a 1,900-kilometer (1,180-mile) subsea pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean’s rapidly developing gas fields to Europe.

Although Turkey opposes the project, the countries aim to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the pipeline completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.

European governments and Israel last year agreed to proceed with the so-called EastMed project, a $6 to $7 billion pipeline project that is expected initially to carry 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Israeli and Cypriot waters to the Greek island of Crete, on to the Greek mainland and into Europe’s gas network via Italy.

The energy ministers of Israel, Greece and Cyprus — Yuval Steinitz, Kostis Hatzidakis and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis — signed the final agreement on the pipeline at a ceremony in Athens.

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Last month, a Turkish official said there was no need to build the EastMed pipeline because the trans-Anatolian pipeline already existed.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said any project that ignored the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots over natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean would fail.

“The most economical and secure route to utilize the natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean and deliver them to consumption markets in Europe, including our country, is Turkey,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the deal was not turning against any country.

“It (the agreement) … supports a common aim for peace, security and stability in the particularly vulnerable region of the Eastern Mediterranean,” Anastasiades said.

The region lacks significant oil and gas infrastructure and political relations between the countries — including Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Syria — are strained on a number of fronts.

The signing of the EastMed pipeline comes weeks after Turkey and Libya struck an accord on sea boundaries in the Mediterranean, a move which Greece, Cyprus and Israel opposed.

Analysts say that pact could present a barrier to the proposed pipeline which would have to cross the planned Turkey-Libya economic zone.

“If Turkey would be interested, the door is open,” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reuters.

“We are ready to discuss some kind of cooperation, energy cooperation, also with the Turks. We are not against the Turks but we are very much in favor of the EastMed gas pipeline project,” he said.

The pipeline project is owned by IGI Poseidon, a joint venture between Greek gas firm DEPA and Italian energy group Edison.

DEPA on Thursday signed a letter of intent with Energean, a gas producer with a focus on the Eastern Mediterranean, to buy two billion cubic meters of gas annually from Energean’s gas fields off Israel via the planned pipeline.

Greece has said the agreement will be concluded once Italy signs off on it too.

Netanyahu said in a statement on Thursday, “This is a historic day for Israel, because Israel is rapidly becoming an energy superpower, a country that exports energy.”

“Just days ago, we opened the Leviathan gas field, and it is producing enormous yields,” he added. “But with the exportation that will become possible via this pipeline, we will be able to provide hundreds of billions of shekels in revenue to the citizens of Israel — for their welfare, for health, for the young people and the elderly, for everyone. This is an extraordinary development.”

“I would also like to mention that we signed a supply agreement with our Arab neighbors,” Netanyahu noted. “This strengthens the peace, the economy and the future. This is also a historic day because the cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel is growing stronger,” the Israeli leader declared. “This is a true alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean that is economic and political, and it adds to the security and stability of the region. Again, not against anyone, but rather for the values and to the benefit of our citizens.”

Netanyahu went on to say, “We call on any other country that wishes to join us to do so. Italy will be added first, but also Egypt and any other country that is interested in doing so. This will strengthen our alliance.”

“This is a tremendous change. Israel was always a ‘fringe country’ a country that did not have any connections, literally and figuratively. Now, in addition to our foreign relations, which are flourishing beyond all imagination and everything we have known, we have a specific alliance towards these important goals in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he concluded.

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