Six East Med countries establish regional gas forum excluding Turkey

Six eastern Mediterranean countries signed a charter to establish a regional energy forum, giving official status to a conglomerate that seeks a natural gas market and export hub to Europe.

The founding of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) comes a day after Turkey expressed its readiness for energy cooperation with Egypt and Israel, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan established the EMGF as an intergovernmental organisation in a virtual ceremony hosted by Cairo, the news wire said.

France has applied to join the group, with the United States and European Union requesting observer status, it said.

The EMGF unites the regional rivals of Turkey. The latter has been locked in a dispute with Greece and Cyprus over ownership of undersea hydrocarbons.

For Israel, the forum “brings regional cooperation with Arab and European countries, the first of its kind in history, with contracts to export (Israeli) gas to Jordan and Egypt worth $30 billion, and that is just the beginning,” Reuters cited Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz as saying in a statement.

On Monday, Turkish presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told the Demirören News Agency that Turkey is ready to cooperate with Egypt and Israel in the energy sector despite differences with the two countries. He expressed Turkey’s willingness to hold an energy conference for Mediterranean countries.

“We welcome a Mediterranean conference on energy, and our political differences with Israel and Egypt do not constitute an obstacle to cooperation with them in the field of energy,” pro-Syrian government Al-Masdar News cited Kalın as saying in an interview with Demirören.

Kalın said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will raise the topic of launching an energy conference in the Mediterranean during his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel, which Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported was slated to take place on Tuesday.

Separately, Kalın denounced U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Nicosia to meet with Greek Cypriot officials to discuss options vis-a-vis a territorial dispute with Turkey that risks turning into a direct military confrontation.

“We consider Pompeo’s visit to southern Cyprus and his failure to meet with officials in Northern Cyprus a unilateral move and a position that does not contribute to a solution,” he said. “The United States must adopt a fair and equal position if it wants to contribute to the solution.”