Israel-Turkey thaw boosts gas pipeline plans

Gas pipeline under construction in Turkey Photo: Shutterstock
Gas pipeline under construction in Turkey Photo: Shutterstock

With the EastMed underwater gas pipeline prohibitively expensive, Israel and the UAE are looking to sell gas to Europe via Turkey.

The deepening regional alliance that has been forming since the signing of the Abraham Accords, which has broken many conventions, makes Israel a major player that can even take advantage of its strong ties with the US and other countries, in order to mediate for and promote cooperation. The very participation of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan earlier this week demonstrated this. Among the issues high on the agenda at the meeting was natural gas.

At the same time, the visit of Israel's President Isaac Herzog to Turkey two weeks ago and the meeting with Turkish leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, represented a new peak in the warming of relations between the countries. The improvement in ties stems mainly from the problematic financial situation in Turkey, which has caused Ankara to renew dialogue with the US and Gulf states as well as Israel.

Next month, a reciprocal Turkish government delegation is due to visit Israel to discuss matters in several economic areas, and first and foremost natural gas. The delegation is expected to include Turkish Minister of Energy Faith Donmez, who recently met his Israeli counterpart Karine Elharrar.

The two major issues on the agenda are how to connect the major Turkish pipeline to Europe to the gas reserves in Israel and the rest of the region including Egypt and the UAE, so that it can become an alternative source of supply to Europe, which wants to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

The warming of relations between Israel and Turkey comes after the EU has allocated a significant budget to examine the viability of laying the "EastMed" underwater to pipeline to transport gas to Europe via Greece and Italy. But it has recently been understood that the cost would be too high, especially as US President Joe Biden has cancelled American support for the venture. Yet now Europe needs to replace Russian gas more than ever.

The liquefied gas that is transported from Egyptian and UAE installations represents an intermediate solution but the capacity of tankers to ship the gas is limited. The idea being promoted by Israel and Turkey with the support of the UAE is the use of the Turkish gas pipeline infrastructure, which reaches Europe and can transport large amounts of gas. A major obstacle in this plan is the dispute between Turkey and Greece and Cyprus over the borders of their territorial waters in the northeast Mediterranean.

Seeking solutions between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus

"Globes" understands that during these talks, which are at the very highest levels, the UAE and Israel are trying to find solutions that would allow energy exploration and development offshore from Greece, Cyprus and Turkey in the disputed waters, and link them to the Turkish infrastructure. The issue was raised by president Herzog during his visit to Greece, Cyprus and Turkey as well as at the meeting between Bennett, Al-Sisi and Bin Zayed in Sharm El Sheikh.

The Emirati are very much involved in the issue of Mediterranean offshore gas, among other things through Mubadala Petroleum, which bought Delek Drilling's holdings in the Tamar field for $1 billion, and are eager to join exploration and development efforts for new fields, as well as find a short cut to transport its own gas to Europe.

Egypt has huge facilities for gas liquefaction off its Mediterranean coast and has its own large gas fields in the Mediterranean. An Egyptian source said that Cairo does not rule out the proposals that have been raised as part of the energy development in the entire region.

Israel is seeking a plan and arrangement, which would link its gas fields to Turkey. One possibility could see it run via Jordan and Syria to Turkey.

An Israeli source involved in the matter said that the strategic changes created by the Abraham accords and the potential in them, are beginning to be felt through regional dialogue in which Israel plays a central role.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on March 24, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Gas pipeline under construction in Turkey Photo: Shutterstock
Gas pipeline under construction in Turkey Photo: Shutterstock
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