Energy transit role gets Israeli boost

Israel has voiced its preference for a pipeline that would carry the country’s natural gas reserves to Europe via Greece instead of a network that would run through Turkey, thereby increasing the chances of Greece playing an active role in getting of the rich reserves of the southeastern Mediterranean to the continent’s biggest consumers.

This role depends on the strengthening of the Greece-Cyprus-Israel triangle, which is rapidly developing into a new energy source that could soon be able to cover half of Europe’s energy needs for about 30 years, according to estimates.

During a visit by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and a number of his cabinet members to Israel this week, Environment and Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis discussed the issue of the underwater pipeline interconnecting the three countries. The response from his counterpart, Silvan Shalom, saying that he would rather see a pipeline pass through Greece rather than via Turkish soil is seen as very promising.

Tel Aviv has long considered how it can transmit its natural gas to Europe. Its final choice will also be determined by the geopolitical balance in the region. Transferring the commodity via Turkey is the most cost-effective solution, but it is not seen as politically “safe” as it would further boost Turkey’s role as an energy raw material transit center.

Greece, via its contacts with Cyprus and Israel, is promoting the plan for an underwater pipeline linking the three countries. This may be a more costly route, but it would guarantee the safe supply of the continental market. This plan is also based on indications of major hydrocarbon reserves south of Crete.

The underwater pipeline project has gained ground also thanks to a recent rift between Tel Aviv and Ankara. There are there alternative routes: The first is for a pipeline starting from Cyprus, reaching Crete and then on to the Peloponnese to end in Komotini and join the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria and feed the southeastern European market. The second is for a pipeline from Israel to Crete, to the Peloponnese and then to northern Greece to join the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) for the Western European market. The third is similar to the second, but starting from a gas compressor station off the Cypriot coast instead of Israel.

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