Cyprus Positioned for Key Israel-Greece-EU Pipeline Project

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, center, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades chat during their meeting in Thessaloniki on Thursday, June15, 2017. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

Facing challenges from Turkey which opposes foreign companies drilling for oil and gas, Cyprus could also be the nexus of a natural gas pipeline to Europe starting in Israel and going through Greece on the way.

President Nicos Anastasiades discussed the proposed joint project with Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and discussed meeting in May, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

That would happen as tensions have built between Turkey and Cyprus over the energy exploration off the island, with Greece over claims in the Aegean, and with Israel over the Gaza strip, creating a kind of Greece-Cyprus-Israel unofficial alliance.

Energy and security needs have drawn Israel closer to Greece and Cyprus during a time of heightened tension and in December, 2017 the pipeline project deal was inked after Israel reported some large finds and the foreign companies off Cyprus said there was potential for big discoveries there too, which Turkey covets for Turkish-Cypriots who have been occupying the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

The three countries, with Turkey stepping up belligerence and claims in the Aegean, have also conducted joint military exercises, reports said, with Tsipras, the Radical Left SYRIZA leader, softening his support for the Palestinians as political reality has set in.

The Israeli company Delek and America’s Noble Energy, ownerד of the Leviathan and Tamar fields, have signed a contract with the Egyptian company Delphinus, as well as the Cypriot Aphrodite offshore gas field.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is courting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the same time Tsipras asked the Russian leader to help secure the release of two Greek soldiers who said they accidentally crossed the border while on patrol in bad weather and are facing a trial.