Ankara examines alternative energy routes amid reported EastMed pipeline collapse

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ANKARA: Amid reports that the United States has withdrawn its support for the EastMed gas pipeline due to economic and environmental concerns, Ankara is poised to bring alternative energy sources to the table.

The EastMed project, which was due to be completed by 2025, aimed to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas by bringing 10 billion cubic meters of gas from Israeli and Cypriot waters into the gas grid each year. Europe via the 1,900 km long gas pipeline.

Turkey has long rejected the EastMed project, which has the support of Greece, Cyprus and Israel. The Trump administration has also backed the pipeline.

During a visit to Albania on January 18, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that the project “cannot work without Turkey”.

“This project cannot be realized. They (the United States) did all the analysis and they recognized that it had no positive side. In other words, the cost calculations didn’t match, so he withdrew his support. »

Amid talks of a possible official visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey and Israel had previously tried to cooperate on energy resources but relevant negotiations had never gone far.

“The loss of interest of the United States in the EastMed pipeline is primarily based on the change in direction of its energy policy and secondarily on the multiple economic, geopolitical, technical and environmental challenges facing the pipeline,” Madalina said. Sisu Vicari, an energy expert with the Eurasian Energy Chamber in Washington, told Arab News.

“When it comes to energy in the Eastern Mediterranean region, U.S. interest now focuses primarily on electrical interconnects that can support both gas and renewable energy sources, such as the EuroAsia interconnector linking the Israeli, Cypriot and European power grids, and the EuroAfrica undersea power interconnector linking Egypt to Crete and Greece,” she added.

According to Sisu Vicari, other players in the Eastern Mediterranean region have begun to foster energy opportunities and projects beyond the realm of natural gas, and these efforts could reshape the region’s geopolitical environment.

“For example, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus signed, last October, two cooperation protocols on the interconnection for the transmission of electrical energy, one aimed at connecting their electrical networks, the other at link their electrical systems to that of Egypt via an undersea cable,” she said.

“This latest interconnector will transmit electricity generated by renewables in North Africa to Europe, the first such infrastructure in the Eastern Mediterranean,” she said.

Sisu Vicari also noted that Washington’s change of position on the EastMed pipeline could also determine Israel’s mood swings, as the project is not compatible with the environmental goals declared by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who committed to zero emissions by 2050.

Experts note that changing regional dynamics could open a window of opportunity for Turkey to strengthen energy cooperation with Israel.

As part of its efforts to restore ties with its former enemies, Turkey has already signaled its readiness to transport Israeli gas to Europe through its territories.

“We can sit down and discuss the terms,” ​​Erdogan said recently, adding that Turkey could use energy “as a tool for peace” if possible.

Sisu Vicari noted that it remains to be seen whether such an energy agreement would only target gas transmission or encompass other areas of energy cooperation.

“But an energy deal would have significant geopolitical implications not only for bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel, but also for the entire Eastern Mediterranean region,” she said.

Aydin Sezer, an energy expert based in Ankara, said it would not be possible to launch a new gas pipeline if the authorities ever decided to launch a joint project to transport gas to Europe through Turkish territories.

“An Arab gas pipeline, a trans-regional gas pipeline intended to transfer natural gas, is already there. This gas pipeline, which will transport Egyptian natural gas to Europe via Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, should be connected to Turkey when the Syrian network is fully built and when the Homs-Aleppo section is completed he told Arab News.

The first section of the Syria-Turkey connection of the Arab Gas Pipeline between Aleppo and the Turkish border town of Kilis has already been built.

But on the other hand, Turkish and Israeli energy ministers conducted intense negotiations in 2017 when the construction of a pipeline project between Turkey and Israel was on the table.

“It was to be a 500 km long gas pipeline and would cross the sea areas of Cyprus or Syria or both to transport gas from Leviathan to Europe via Turkish territories,” Sezer said.

“Beyond its aspects of international maritime law, Turkish companies found this project too expensive and not financially feasible.

“But Egypt’s northern flank is home to significant gas reserves, which should encourage Turkey to focus on this area rather than building new lines,” Sezer said.

According to Sezer, any new gas project with Israel could further damage fragile regional relations and could be used by Tehran as a pretext to stop the flow of gas to Turkey, especially in harsh winter conditions.

Iran cut off gas flows to Turkey on Wednesday, allegedly due to a technical failure, prompting several experts to wonder if it was Tehran’s reaction to Herzog’s planned visit. in Turkey.

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