Hugh Pope, Project Director of the Turkey/Cyprus International Crisis Group has said that Turkey will lose out, in terms of Israel’s hydrocarbon fields in the eastern Mediterranean if there is no solution to the Cyprus problem.
In an interview with Turkish national daily ‘Hurriyet’, he says that piping gas from Israel’s Leviathan field via Cyprus to Turkey for selling onwards to EU clients is a cheaper and more viable alternative to liquefying gas finds. However, the gas would first be piped to South Cyprus and then on to Turkey, which would require a solution to the Cyprus problem given that there are highly contested territorial issues which need to be resolved.
Pope says that the issue of gas transportation is a political one and wondered if Turkey really wanted to co-operate with Israel in this matter, since it would require South Cyprus’ permission to build the pipeline to the south of the island. An earlier report mentions the still unresolved relations between Israel and Turkey over the Mavi Mara incident.
The huge natural gas reserves of Tamar and Leviathan fields off Israel’s shores could be pivotal in terms of the geopolitical balance in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s attitude will influence where the gas pipeline goes.
According to Pope, if the Israeli gas is piped to Turkey, there are three options:
- It can be joined directly to Turkey’s national grid. (Turkey is largely dependent on Russia and Iran for its gas).
- It can be joined to the TANAP (Trans-Anatolia Natural Gas Pipeline)
- It will link directly to the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline)
Mindful that mainland Greece and Israel signed a joint declaration last week, to further enhance cooperation in the energy sector with a plan to pipe Israeli gas via Crete to the Greek mainland, Pope believes that a decision will be made within the next 1-2 years.
Pope emphasises that in an ideal world the most practical route for the gas is via Turkey, however, he said that the painful reality is that politicians stick to populist rhetoric. The outcome being that all the countries involved miss out on the opportunities that could be created by co-operating with each other.