NICOSIA – The United States’ abrupt shift toward siding more with Turkey’s insistence on taking part in energy hunts has seen Cyprus delivered the message there’s no hope for the so-called EastMed Pipeline.
The project is designed to connect energy to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete, transporting natural gas from the off-shore gas reserves in the Levantine Basin into Greece, and in conjunction with the Poseidon and IGB pipelines into Italy and other European Union destinations.
It would be 1,900 kilometers (1180.6 miles) long, reach depths of 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) and have a capacit of 10 billion cubic meters per year but US officials earlier said it’s dead in the water.
And now Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy Laura Lochman told the Cyprus News Agency that Cyprus must seek “other options,” after Washington said it wanted Turkey involved, a dramatic shift for President Joe Biden who was believed to be on the side of Cyprus and Greece.
Lochman said that Cyprus has to get on board with that after the US said the government of President Nicos Anastasiades – who had received American assurances of the right to look for oil gas – would be left alone.
The EU is trying to wean off dependency on Russian energy that it’s still buying despite sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, but needing Russian gas that accounts for up to 40 percent of its supply.
“Fortifying European energy security at this point is important from many perspectives and the East Mediterranean can be part of the solution,” Lochman said, Kathimerini noted.
“The need in Europe at this point is great due to the unprovoked and completely unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine, or re-invasion of Ukraine, and that has turned all of the markets topsy-turvy,” Lochman said.
COOKING WITH AIR
Echoing other US officials, she said Cyprus’ plan to pursue an expensive EastMed natural gas pipeline “would not be something that would be an immediate-term or even a midterm solution.”
“If you need to get energy into the markets more immediately it seems to us that it would make more sense to take advantage of other options,” Lochman said, such as using LNG facilities in Egypt to ship gas to Europe as well as taking advantage of existing infrastructure through short interconnectors.
Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias insisted that the EastMed project that’s still on the drawing board and not progressing is “alive and kicking” and Cypriot officials said it’s still viable, leaving Greece and Cyprus isolated.
US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland earlier Kathimerini why there was a sudden tilt in Washington, with Greek-American groups saying Biden inexplicably is trying to appease Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We don’t need to wait for 10 years and spend billions of dollars on this stuff. We need to move the gas now. And we need to use gas today as a transition to a greener future. Ten years from now, we don’t want a pipeline. Ten years from now, we want to be green,” she said.
Asked about Israeli warming relations with Turkey after a troubled period and discussing working together on a pipeline – which could shut out Greece and Cyprus, Lochman said: “From our perspective the fact that various players in the region are talking to one another about cooperating on energy security issues is fantastic,” using diplomatic cover language aimed at saying nothing.
“Any forum, any discussion that brings the partners together in cooperation on this front and for equitable sharing of benefits between the countries and the communities, that helps everything move forward,” she said.