ATHENS – Israel and Cyprus have enough gas to fill the proposed EastMed natural gas pipeline from the East Mediterranean to Europe, Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told New Europe in an interview in the Greek capital.
Steinitz signed with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts — Kostis Hatzidakis and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis — an intergovernmental agreement for the 1,900-kilometer (1180.6 mile) EastMed pipeline at a ceremony in Athens.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades also attended the ceremony at the Zappeion Hall in Athens.
“We have enough gas in Israel and Cyprus to justify even two pipelines so certainly we have enough gas for one pipeline,” Steinitz told New Europe.
He added that Israel also intends to export some gas to Egypt through the Egyptian liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals. “Energy cooperation between Egypt and Israel is also advancing and flourishing and there are already deals to export Israeli gas to Egypt and also to Jordan for 30 billion dollars and this is just the beginning. Some of this gas will be liquified and sent from Egypt to Europe,” he said.
Earlier on 3 January, the Public Gas Corporation of Greece (DEPA) and oil and gas exploration and production company Energean Oil & Gas agreed to cooperate to further support the EastMed Pipeline Project, signing a letter of intent for the potential sale and purchase of 2 billion cubic metres natural gas per year from Energean’s gas fields offshore Israel, where Energean is investing $1.7 billion for the development of the Karish & Tanin fields through the FPSO Energean Power.
Asked if he was concerned about a controversial seaborder demarcation deal between Turkey and Libya and Ankara’s objections to the EastMed project, the Israeli Energy Minister said, “No, there shouldn’t be any problems because we are speaking about international waters. Economic zones are still international waters and in international waters there is free access, free movement for everybody, therefore there is no problem according to international law.” Last month, Turkey and Libya signed an agreement that demarcated new maritime boundaries between the two countries, which was denounced by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.
Steinitz also said he expects the Italian government to sign the EastMed intergovernmental agreement soon. “Italy already signed on the previous agreements and I expect Italy to sign the next three or four months – even before,” he said at the event.
He stressed that the EastMed would strengthen Europe’s energy security given that diversification of sources and supply routes is a key goal of the European Union. “The basic idea was that since Europe got some of its gas from the Northern Sea, from the fields that belong to Norway, Holland and UK, and many of these gas fields are now depleting, Europe needs some replacement for the Northern Sea. And the idea was that the Eastern Mediterranean will become the replacement of Northern Sea if we will be able to construct a pipeline across the Mediterranean from Israel and Cyprus directly to Europe – to Greece and Italy,” Steinitz said.
“The European Union took it very seriously, the former Energy Commissioner (Miguel Arias) Cañete decided to examine and in 2017 after the initial examination showed that the project is technologically and economically feasible we signed the initial agreement between Israel, Greece, Cyprus and Italy and now we sign the final agreement that will pave the way for the construction of this East Mediterranean pipeline,” the Israeli Energy Minister said and quipped: “This is going to be the longest and deepest underwater pipeline in the world.”
Story by Kostis Geropoulos/New Europe