By David Hellerman, World Israel News -
U.S. officials have notified Israel, Greece and Cyprus that Washington no longer supports a joint gas pipeline intended to supply Europe with natural gas. Greek media reports, which broke the story, cited a U.S. “non-document” or unofficial position paper which characterized the EastMed pipeline as a “primary source of tension” and something “destabilising” the region because of Turkish opposition.
The joint pipeline, a $6.8 billion initiative, was expected to provide Europe with ten percent of its energy needs, reducing the continent’s dependence on Russian natural gas.
A widely cited Reuters report quoted a source who said, “The American side expressed to the Greek side reservations as to the rationale of the EastMed pipeline, (and) raised issues of its economic viability and environmental (issues).”
In 2018, Israel signed an agreement with Italy, Greece, and Cyprus to lay the mostly underwater gas pipeline. Running from the Israel’s Leviathan gas field to Italy via a Cypriot gas field, Crete and the Greek mainland, the EastMed pipeline planned to traverse 1,900 kilometers (1,242 miles). The project won U.S. support in 2019.
The pipeline was supposed to be operational in 2025 and eventually carry 10 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe annually.
Media reports say the initiative has not secured funding. None of the EastMed partner countries have publicly commented on what Washington’s position means for the pipeline’s future.
Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a nation, claims the island and its offshore resources for itself, and opposed the endeavor. On numerous occasions, the Turkish Navy harassed Israeli and Cypriot vessels doing exploratory work.
The EastMed project was also competing with a Russian-Turkish pipeline, the Turkstream, which began delivering gas to Europe in 2020.
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters, “If [Israeli gas] would be brought to Europe, it could only be done through Turkey,” according to a transcript released by Erdogan’s office. “Is there any hope for now? We can sit and talk about the conditions.”
The pipeline also faced the formidable geophysical challenges of passing through very deep water, sometimes at depths of 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) in an area known for seismic activity.