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25 June, 2024
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‘Immediate solutions’ test Cyprus’ take on EastMed

US official urges Nicosia to look for 'other options' as players in the game respond quickly to big changes


A US energy official urged Nicosia to seek “other options” if the island wanted to get energy quickly into markets, with Italy doing just that earlier this week when Rome clinched a deal with Algeria to replace Russian gas imports through the Transmed pipeline.

US energy official Laura Lochman gave an interview to the Cyprus News Agency this week, saying the eastern Mediterranean was critical for energy security and urging Nicosia to be a team player in the game.

“Fortifying European energy security at this point is important from many perspectives and the east Mediterranean can be part of the solution,” Lochman said.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy also pointed to the war in Ukraine and said it had brought big changes to the energy market.

“The need in Europe at this point is great due to the unprovoked and completely unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine or re-invasion of Ukraine and that has turned all of the markets topsy-turvy,” Lochman said in a clip posted by CNA.

According to Lochman, Nicosia’s plan to pursue an expensive EastMed natural gas pipeline “would not be something that would be an immediate term or even a median term solution.”

'If you need to get energy into the markets more immediately it seems to us that it would make more sense to take advantage of other options' Lochman said

“If you need to get energy into the markets more immediately it seems to us that it would make more sense to take advantage of other options,” Lochman said, such as using LNG facilities in Egypt to ship gas to Europe as well as taking advantage of existing infrastructure through short interconnectors.

An example of a short interconnector also made headlines this week after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi visited Algeria to sign a gas supply deal aimed at reducing his country’s energy dependence on Russia.

Draghi, who has been feeling pressure by political parties to take lead on Mediterranean energy, told reporters that Rome’s deal with Algiers was “a significant response to the strategic goal” of quickly replacing Russian energy.

Russia is Italy’s biggest supplier of natural gas, representing 40% of total imports, followed by Algeria, which provides some 21 billion cubic meters of gas through the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline.

Rome-based ENI, an Italian multinational oil and gas company with interests in waters off Cyprus as well, said in a statement it would pump up the extra gas by this fall, adding up to 9bcf of Algerian gas by 2023-24.

Nicosia has been pursuing an EastMed underwater pipeline with Israel and Greece, while Italy had shown interest but never fully committed to the details of the plan.

Washington recently came out and said explicitly it would not support an EastMEd pipeline, citing economic, environmental, and political considerations for the region.

Ankara, which had been left out of EastMed talks due to political problems with Athens and Nicosia, recently launched a charm offensive with Israel as the two estranged countries have been warming up to the possibility of a pipeline between the two states, a task which would need the divided island's blessing.

Asked by CNA to weigh in on Turkey-Israel pipeline discussions, Lochman said “from our perspective the fact that various players in the region are talking to one another about cooperating on energy security issues is fantastic.”

“Any forum, any discussion that brings the partners together in cooperation on this front and for equitable sharing of benefits between the countries and the communities, that helps everything move forward,” she said.

Cyprus  |  Italy  |  Algeria Turkey  |  Israel  |  Russia  |  Ukraine  |  war  |  invasion  |  energy  |  EastMed  |  Trans-Mediterranean  |  pipeline  |  USA  |  Laura Lochman

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