Cyprus, Greece, Israel to set up multi-party military force for energy security

Cyprus, Greece and Israel have reached an agreement to set up a multi-party military force to provide security for natural gas infrastructure, Greek Kathimerini newspaper reported.

The news arrives following an announcement from the three countries on Thursday that they are ready to proceed with a U.S.-backed pipeline project that would transfer natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe, following  a summit of the three countries in Israel.

Tensions have been soaring in the gas-rich Eastern Mediterranean in recent years as regional countries’ hunt for oil and gas has provoked fierce competition. As rich hydrocarbon reserves are believed to lie under the sea floor near Cyprus, the island has become a hotspot for international companies.

The parties involved in natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean will be invited to contribute military units to the force, Kathimerini said, citing unnamed diplomatic sources at the Beersheba summit, which saw the participation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades.

Among countries expected to be invited to join the force is the United States, Kathimerini said, highlighting that two US-based companies, ExxonMobil and Noble Energy, are involved in natural gas exploration in the region.

Turkey has repeatedly stated it will not accept attempts to seize natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean that exclude Turkey and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. 

ExxonMobil began drilling at an offshore oilfield inside the divided island’s exclusive economic zone in November, amid objections from Turkey.