A new alliance emerging in gas-rich eastern Mediterranean - Kathimerini

The exploration of hydrocarbon reserves within the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Israel and Cyprus in recent years is creating a new dynamic in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greek newspaper Katherimini said. 

In January 2019, seven energy ministers in the region signed a deal to set up the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF).

The EMGF, which includes Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories, formalises increasing energy ties in the region, where recent natural gas discoveries have led to soaring tensions. Turkey, which is in a bitter dispute with Cyprus and Greece over drilling in the region, was excluded due to what is being called an aggressive campaign of gas drilling in the region.

The ulterior goal of the newly emerging alliance is the promotion of regional stability and prosperity, the newspaper said.

Pointing out that Turkey is opposed to Cypriot efforts to explore for hydrocarbons, Kathimerini said Cyprus and Greece remain at odds with Ankara over also issues related to maritime zones, overflights from the Turkish side and the militarisation of the Greek islands. 

Turkey has attempted to block exploration for hydrocarbons off the coast of Cyprus, saying Turkish Cypriots have a right to a say in the work and a share in any revenue. But the Greek Cypriots have said an agreement over the island, divided since Turkish troops invaded in 1974, must come first. 

While each country that is part of the EMGF has its own reasons for becoming part of this alignment, it said, participants maintain ‘’converging views on energy affairs and, among the participating states, common perceptions of threat.’’

The United States is backing up an energy corridor to transfer newly discovered gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe, as it regards the project as crucial for ‘’the European Union’s energy security and diversification of energy resources and a step toward regional stability,’’ it said.