By Vassilis Nedos
A much-vaunted trilateral summit between the leaders of Greece, Israel and Cyprus, which is to take place in Jerusalem on Wednesday with the participation of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is expected to underline the intention to build the EastMed pipeline to transfer natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe, while also sending a stern message to Turkey over its aggressive activity in the region.
The summit is expected to yield a short statement of intent by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades which Pompeo is expected to back, emphasizing the US aim to create a security alliance in the region.
Washington’s key interest in the trilateral summit is the prospects it opens up for enhanced security in the region and in the energy sector, followed by a possible cooperation in the development of new technologies.
Pompeo’s presence in Jerusalem is also widely seen as an expression of support for Netanyahu, who is facing indictment on corruption charges ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for April 9.
The original plan had been for the EastMed pipeline deal to be signed at the summit but that has been postponed amid political upheaval in Italy, where the pipeline would culminate. A junior partner in the Italian coalition objects to the planned construction in Puglia, in the country’s south.
In any case, a strong statement of intent to press forward with the pipeline, and with a tighter security alliance in the region, has rattled Turkey which has its own sights on energy resources in the area.
In an apparent response to the summit, Turkey is planning a naval exercise off Cyprus on the same day.
Ankara has said that the exercise will take place on March 20, 22, 25, 27 and 29, and has reserved a wide area south of Cyprus, including parts of blocks 1, 7 and 8 of the island’s exclusive economic zone where the Turkish seismic research vessel Barbaros has been active.
Cyprus, which has complained to the United Nations over Turkey’s activities in the area, remains concerned over Ankara’s stated plan to drill for gas off the island.