Cyprus outside the new plans for EastMed

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Diplomats speaking publicly and in front of an audience articulate what constitutes the official position of their governments, what they have set as their goal and what they want to implement, according to And when Israel’s ambassador in Athens talks about his country’s cooperation with Egypt and Greece, leaving Cyprus out of the equation, then this is a strong message for what’s next in the Eastern Mediterranean energy sector.

Speaking before the delegates of the Greek-Israeli Forum, held in Athens, Yossi Amrani was sufficiently clear in his positions, leaving no room for misunderstandings.

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In his possibly last speech as ambassador to Greece, G. Amrani recorded what concerns Greek-Israeli relations, in which it seems that Egypt is currently playing, from its position, a more important role than Cyprus, even if at the conference it was recognized by the speakers how crucial Nicosia’s actions were in building regional alliances.

The crisis in Ukraine has created a good opportunity for Eastern Mediterranean natural gas, which Israel does not seem to want to let go to waste. That is why he is rushing to take advantage of the window opportunity that has opened in order to ensure the sale of Israeli natural gas to Europe. Israel has already started production and can sell natural gas to other countries as well.

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The lack of infrastructure to transport natural gas to Europe is covered by Egypt which has the facilities for liquefaction but does not have its own quantities. From there on, the closest point to Egypt is Greece. And this is how a parallel tripartite collaboration is created which, unlike the others, can provide financial profit in a particularly critical period. Unlike all the other tripartites that have been created and so far they have not managed to reach this point.

Israel, Yossi Amrani said, is a strategic asset for the European Union and “its contribution to the stability of Europe is direct and obvious”. To add that “energy and food security and the challenges we will face in the future. These are the future pillars of our growing cooperation along with emergency preparedness.”

After the coolness caused last December by Washington’s position on the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, which it essentially sent unclaimed, the issue was reheated in March and from there on the occasion of the war in Ukraine and the struggle of the European Union to find new energy sources to cover its needs. The EastMed pipeline as a project is still under study, and by next winter when gas needs begin to emerge in Europe, the governments involved will, at best, have the results of the feasibility and cost study in their hands. But Europe cannot wait for when it can wait for the construction of the pipeline.

That is why the pipeline can now only remain as an idea and be implemented in another form. According to Yossi Amrani “the EastMed pipeline is an idea, not necessarily a specific route”. In short, the transfer of natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe can be realized, not through a pipeline on the bottom of the Mediterranean. The pipeline can also be a route that natural gas will follow from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe.

That is why Yossi Amrani, after noting that the pipeline is an idea and not necessarily a specific route, went on to emphasize that: “We must build a cooperation between Israel, Egypt and Greece for the transport of natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean in Europe”. And this, according to the Israeli diplomat, can be a strategic advantage.”

Regarding the various collaborations, what the Israeli ambassador indicated is: 1. The 3+1 scheme has primarily a political purpose, 2. The tripartite was expanded to include distant neighbors. 3. There must be adaptation of this structure to changing regional and global realities.

He pays the arrears

The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis plaguing the whole of Europe brought to the surface the serious problems facing the Cypriot energy program. The delays until now in the implementation of the project have resulted in Cyprus not being able to take advantage of the window of opportunity offered to it. Although the predictions of the experts, that the crisis will continue and there will be needs in the long term, give a note of optimism and that Cyprus will catch the train, however this cannot be considered reassuring.

At this moment it is very clear that the states of the region, with which Nicosia has worked all the previous years to get close and cooperate, show that they are looking at their side by leaving Cyprus out of the energy equation they are going to create. In Nicosia the government – on the occasion of the agreement recently signed by the European Union, Egypt and Israel – assured that nothing was lost and that in the future there could be a connection for the transport of Cypriot natural gas as well.

However, until it reaches that point, i.e. Cyprus can export natural gas, there is still a long way to go. And by then the facts are very likely to have diverged. At the same time, Cyprus will have to play by the rules of the game that is already being played. And this means that the delays that occur all this time will have a serious cost.

The Turkish reactions

The Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, as a project, has never received the same serious approach, which is why intense doubts have been heard from many directions at times. In Athens, many circles were quick to connect the pipeline (even if it was nothing more than an announcement) with the Turkish reactions in the Eastern Mediterranean, but also with the well-known Turkish-Libyan memorandum of 2019. Angelos Syrigos, Deputy Minister of Education in the government Kyriakou Mitsotakis, characterizes what is being said on the matter as jokes, namely that the Turkish-Libyan memorandum was Ankara’s reaction to the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline.

As he explained during his speech at the conference of the Israeli-Greek Forum, Ankara’s plans with Libya had started previously. According to A. Syrigos, planning for the agreement with Libya began in 2010, in 2011 the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicized Turkey’s claims in the Eastern Mediterranean and the pipeline began to be planned in 2012. Turkey’s agreement with the Libyan government came in November 2019.

The events when put in a chronological order come to demolish the Turkish claims regarding the energy of the Eastern Mediterranean. Just as Turkey’s claim that it protects the rights of Turkish Cypriots is also disproved. According to A. Syrigos, it is a fact that Turkey claims much more for itself than for the Turkish Cypriots”.

There is no international guarantee

Ephraim Inbar, speaking at the IEF conference, emphasized that there should be no illusions regarding Turkey and Erdogan. Indicating the time that the United States is cautious and thinks twice and thrice about the decisions concerning Ankara because they do not want to push Turkey into the arms of Russia under any circumstances.

Continuing with his speech, the president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS) also recorded some lessons learned from the war in Ukraine: What is referred to as international legitimacy is something useless and no international guarantee guarantees the territorial integrity of a state and “this is proved by the case of Ukraine”. According to Ephraim Inbar “the British and the Americans were clamoring for the territorial integrity of Ukraine but the Russians took Crimea and imposed themselves on the Donbass and the other regions of eastern Ukraine”. Finally, he noted that the war in Ukraine contributed to a certain extent to Europe starting to correct itself strategically.

Collectiveness but also self-reliance

Both the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Nikos Dendias, and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulidis, during their speeches, particularly emphasized the collectiveness that should exist between the states, especially at this time due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “The challenges we face due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine do not stop at national borders – Nikos Christodoulidis emphasized in his speech – and therefore the responses must be collective to be effective”.

Greece, stressed Nikos Dendias, strongly believes in cooperation between all the countries of the region, but of course on a specific basis: good neighborly relations and respect for International Law, including the Law of the Sea”.

Partnerships in the region, such as Eran Lerman (vice president of JISS) are to some extent also due to Erdogan’s aggressiveness. As he characteristically stated, “Erdogan managed to unite Israel and Egypt”.

But these partnerships and alliances are not enough, Ephraim Inbar points out, because each state needs to be self-sufficient and believe in its own strengths. Because, he pointed out, in a real crisis we are not sure if all these signed agreements will work to our aid.

This was the approach taken by the Israeli speakers at the Forum, that is, beyond the agreements, there must also be the possibility for a state to protect itself. At the same time, as Lt. Gen. Yaakov Amintror emphasized, we should stop thinking that dictators think like us. Emphasizing that on earth “democracies are a minority” he warned that “if we don’t unite then we have no chance to face the dictatorships”.


Source: Capital

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