EastMed gas pipeline ignites geopolitical tensions

EU welcomes Israeli natural gas expansion as Turkey's deal with Libya seeks to exploit it


Geopolitical tensions are building over the supply of natural gas into Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean.

The President of the European Council of the EU has accused Turkey of violating maritime law and the sovereignty of a number of states.

In November 2019 Turkey signed a "memorandum of understanding" with Libya, which attempts to extend Libya’s sea boundaries. This would allow it to lay claim to almost 40,000 square kilometres of maritime waters that currently belong to Greece.

Any pipeline which crossed this new Turkey-Libya economic zone would thus require the approval and input of Ankara.

Then on January 2 Israel, Cyprus and Greece agreed to build the EastMed natural gas pipeline. This project has faced stiff opposition from Ankara as it would bypass Turkey and eventually deliver 10 per cent of Europe’s natural gas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hopes that his deal with the UN-backed leader of Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj, will grant him greater leverage over such a project.

The pipline would extend from Israel, through Cyprus and a number of Greek islands into Italy.

Erdoğan has stated: “Greek Cypriots, Egypt, Greece and Israel cannot establish a natural gas transmission line without Turkey’s consent”. He claimed: “The project to exclude Turkey from the Mediterranean has been foiled.”

EU comments, however, show that the fight to supply Europe with natural gas continues.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, recently stated that the Turkey-Libya bi-lateral agreement “infringes upon the sovereign rights of third states and does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third states".

The EU described the EastMed agreement as “a welcome development”.

Commercial gas production from the Leviathan gas field off the coast of Israel started a fortnight ago.

The field is currently drilled by a partnership of Derek Drilling (DEDR), Ratio Oil Exploration (RATI) and Noble Energy (NBL).

Israel has been a long-time importer of energy, but Leviathan looks set to put the country on the path to energy independence.

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