A classified report by the Foreign Policy Research Center at Israel’s Foreign Ministry has determined that it is best to export Israeli natural gas to Europe via Egypt, and not through Turkey, which was labeled a “dangerous and volatile” player in the region, according to an article published by the Hebrew-language Ynet news website.
The report essentially puts the final nails in the coffin vis a vis any plan to route natural gas through Turkey and into Europe. It contained an analysis which weighed the economic, political, strategic and energy advantages of the two routes.
In addition, the Greek route was also said to be progressing well politically, but had not yet succeeded in attracting business interests.
The need to transport gas in the Middle East sharpens regional competition between Egypt, Turkey and Greece. “Egypt presents the best combination of political, strategic and economic-energy fields in the possibilities of transporting gas to Europe (or Asia)” the document states.
Work in the Leviathan gas field has already produced a series of small regional contracts to supply energy to Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
Turkey has a clear interest to “connect to” Eastern Mediterranean gas (including Greece and Egypt as a competitor), and despite its rhetoric on the subject tends to underestimate the degree of interest in the field. Above this, Turkey is interested in reducing its dependence on Russian gas and to reduce its procurement costs in this area.
The Greek channel for Israeli and Cypriot export, known as EastMed, has the declared support of all the governments involved and the European Union Commission. The progress of the project on the political level is impressive. On the economic-energy level, however, it seems that the project has not yet succeeded in attracting interest from relevant business entities.
Targeting the political factors in the project is, in and of itself, important, as it signals continuity in the European issue in the Middle East gas and encourages new gas exploration by the giants of the field. However, this is not a sufficient condition for implementing the project. The application still has several hurdles, the centralities of which are related to the pricing of the pipe and the gas that will be transported through it.
In the Egyptian gas export option, the two main components of the practical advancement of gas transportation projects to the European market – the political-strategic infrastructure and the economic-energy logic – are currently in the process of becoming an important regional player in the medium to long term. It should take about five years.