Ankara slams EastMed pipeline, opposes any gas project excluding Turkey

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ANKARA
Published 03.01.2020 11:34
Updated 03.01.2020 16:57

Any project that aims to sideline the rights of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the Eastern Mediterranean will be unsuccessful, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

The ministry’s remarks came after Greece, Greek Cyprus and Israel inked a deal on Thursday in Athens for the construction of a 1,900-kilometer subsea pipeline to carry natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe.

The Foreign Ministry called the deal “the latest instance of futile steps in the region that try to exclude our country and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

“Any project disregarding Turkey, who has the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Turkish Cypriots, who have equal rights over the natural resources of the Island of Cyprus, cannot succeed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.

Bringing this issue once more to the attention of the international community, Aksoy underlined that "such sordid plans will continue to fail in the future as they did in the past."

Although Turkey opposes the project, the countries aim to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the pipeline completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.

Turkey is the securest and most commercially feasible route for the utilization of the natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean and their transfer to consumer markets in Europe, including Turkey, Aksoy added.

Aksoy said refusing to cooperate both with Turkey and the TRNC is “actually a direct manifestation of some countries’ pursuit of futile political motivations instead of cooperation.”

European governments and Israel last year agreed to proceed with the so-called EastMed project, a $6 to $7 billion pipeline project that is expected initially to carry 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year. It is planned to run from Israel through Greek Cyprus, the Greek island of Crete, on to the Greek mainland and into Europe’s gas network via Italy.

EASTMED'S ECONOMIC FEASIBILITY

The main problem with the project is its economic feasibility, and the gas to cover these costs has not yet been supplied.

According to the Greek daily To Vima on Thursday, the transfer cost of the natural gas is estimated to be three times lower if the pipeline passes through Turkey, instead of the route the EastMed project suggests. A Turkish official recently told Reuters there was no need to build the EastMed pipeline because the Trans-Anatolian pipeline already existed.

Androulla Vassiliou, former Greek Cypriot EU commissioner for health and also for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, has questioned the project as well.

"For a pipeline that will be so expensive that it will be impossible to finance, for natural gas the price of which we do not know if can justify the expenditure and the quantities of which are still unknown..... It is all a game of impressions......," she wrote on her Twitter account on Thursday, referring to the signing of the agreement on building the EastMed pipeline.

Oktay Tanrısever, an expert on energy diplomacy and International Relations Department chair of the Middle East Technical University in Turkey's capital Ankara, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday that the EastMed natural gas pipeline is a political project, not viable and very expensive.

The natural gas from the area should be transported to the European market through a pipeline from Turkey, Tanrısever said. "The EastMed project is a political project. I do not think European institutions consider it economically feasible," he stressed.

Tanrısever said the project cannot be realized also because of legal difficulties as the planned pipeline would pass through the Turkish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). To realize this project, Turkish consent is required, he said, adding: "The Greek Cypriots, Greece and Israel should cooperate with Turkey and redefine this project." He stressed that the route of the pipeline should pass through the island of Cyprus and Turkey to reach the European market.

He also said some European think tanks have already raised questions on the economic feasibility of the EastMed project, but the interest in the project is based on diplomatic and regional geopolitical reasons, Tanrısever said.

Isolation of Turkey does not benefit anyone, and it is not sustainable in the long run, he emphasized. Tanrısever said he believes that the parties will eventually consider revising the pipeline project by cooperating with Turkey for the construction of a mutually beneficial pipeline project, with a route from the island of Cyprus passing through Turkey.

Energy diplomacy is a key for the solution of this issue, and Turkey has been offering its willingness to cooperate with all the countries concerned, he said.

Prior to the signing of the agreement, Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı condemned the project, stressing that it "contradicts geographical facts" and was "decided on purely political concerns."

The signing of the EastMed pipeline comes weeks after Turkey and Libya struck an accord on the countries’ maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, a move which Greece, Greek Cyprus and Israel opposed. Analysts say that pact could present a barrier to the proposed pipeline which would have to cross the planned Turkey-Libya economic zone.

Reports recently emerged citing Israeli officials as saying that they are ready to discuss the building of a gas pipeline with Turkey.

“If Turkey would be interested, the door is open,” Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reuters on Thursday. “We are ready to discuss some kind of cooperation, energy cooperation, also with the Turks. We are not against the Turks, but we are very much in favor of the EastMed gas pipeline project,” he said.

In an interview with reporters in December, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said negotiations with Israel for a pipeline to carry the Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe via Turkey are not on Ankara’s agenda yet.

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