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Politics

Greek Ambassador to Israel Applauds East Med Pipeline Push

July 20, 2020

In a shot at Turkey's plans to drill for energy in Greek waters after doing so off Cyprus, Greece's Ambassador to Israel Panagiotis Sarris praised that country taking part in the EastMed gas pipeline project.

The project “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 in a written statement.

That came as the government ratified a trilateral accord signed in Athens in January by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

The three countries are cooperating in the plan to construct a 1900-kilometer (1180.6 mile) pipeline under the sea, which would be the world's longest and bring energy to the European Union, taking gas from Israel and Cyprus through Greece to Italy.

With Turkish warships protecting its energy research vessels off Cyprus, the Cypriot Parliament also ratified the project that is approved by the EU and the United States despite President Trump's close ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The EU assisted the parties in drafting the intergovernmental agreement,” the EU Embassy in Tel Aviv said, adding that “the pipeline should be seen as one option of tapping EastMed gas supplies for the EU alongside shipping it to the EU by tankers in the form of liquefied natural gas,” the paper reported.

Turkey objects and signed a maritime deal with Libya dividing the seas between them with Turkey claiming waters off Greek islands and planning to drill off Crete, spiking tension with Greece and fears of a conflict.

The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – which Turkey doesn't recognized – was atified by 168 countries, with Turkey disputing seas boundaries and claiming large swathes of the Mediterranean.

“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,” Sarris said.

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

Sarris said the deal with Israel and Cyprus “puts an end to the energy isolation of Cyprus and ensures the supply of gas to areas of Greece that currently do not have access to the national network.”

He added that, “The next step is for Italy to join and ratify the EastMed Project so that the gas can then go to Central and Northern Europe. I am very optimistic that Italy will get on board.”

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