12° Nicosia,
17 June, 2024

Middle East turmoil shifts energy and diplomatic priorities

The impact on Greece, Cyprus, and Israel in the south-eastern Mediterranean

By Chryssa Liangou

The tumultuous situation in the Middle East, prompted by Hamas's aggressive attack on Israel and Tel Aviv's military response, is reshaping the priorities of the Netanyahu government and the balance in the South-Eastern Mediterranean. This region, to which Europe has tied its energy security following the shift away from Russian fossil fuels, sees Greece and Cyprus as pivotal players in this strategy. They are championing significant energy initiatives aimed at transporting Israel's gas reserves (EastMed) to Europe and establishing electricity corridors for green energy transport (EuroAsia Interconnector) and the Saudi-Greek Interconnection.

The ongoing military conflict in the Middle East appears to have prematurely halted Turkey's ambitions to serve as the conduit for Israel's reserves to reach Europe. Instead, it is granting greater viability to the EastMed pipeline, which intends to transport these reserves through Cyprus and Greece. Key stakeholders, however, assert that it is currently too early to make a definitive assessment regarding Israel's final decision on the route for its energy deposits. Nevertheless, insiders with knowledge of the bilateral relations between Greece and Israel acknowledge that "in the aftermath of the Hamas attack, everything for Israel takes a back seat," implying that all other issues have been "put on hold."

Energy Minister George Papanastasiou recently mentioned that consultations between Cyprus and Israel concerning the transfer of natural gas from Israeli fields to Cyprus for power generation or liquefaction, as well as the export to other markets, and discussions on potential interconnections of both countries' electricity systems may face a temporary delay. The interconnection pertains to the EuroAsia Interconnector project, which aims to link Greece with Cyprus and Israel. While the first segment of the project (Greece - Cyprus) is progressing with substantial EU funding and the full responsibility of ADMIE, the situation in Israel might affect the entry of the Israeli fund into the project.

The evolution of this situation and its impact on Israel-Saudi relations and the West's plans to establish the India-Middle East-Europe Economic and Trade Corridor (IMEC) will also determine the effects on the Greece-Saudi electricity interconnection (Saudi-Greek Interconnection). For now, the conflicts in Israel have not disrupted the production of Greece's Energean in the Karis and Tanin fields. The company is closely monitoring events and remains prepared for any scenario.

Analysts and experienced diplomats do not foresee any significant developments in terms of bilateral agreements with Israel as long as the military conflicts persist. However, they do believe that Greece's practical support for Israel during these trying times may lay the foundation for future collaboration in critical areas of mutual interest.

Projects Impacted

1. EastMed Pipeline: This project aims to establish an underwater connection between Israel, Cyprus, and Greece, facilitating the transportation of natural gas from Israel and the broader South-Eastern Mediterranean region.

2. EuroAsia Interconnector: Envisioned as an electricity interconnection linking Israel, Cyprus, and Greece, this initiative is designed to initially transmit 1 GW of "green" energy, with future potential to scale up to 2 GW.

3.  Saudi Greek Interconnection: This electrical interconnection project, an extension of the connectivity with Israel, will establish a link between Greece and Saudi Arabia.

[This article was translated and edited from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  Greece  |  Israel  |  energy  |  diplomacy

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