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17 June, 2024
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Israeli ambassadorship to Turkey rewrites gas rules

Nicosia silent over marriage of convenience as ally Netanyahu opens up to gas deals with willing players


Israel's new ambassador to Turkey presented her credentials to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan week, after four years of strain between the two countries and just months after Nicosia said it was confident it would not be sidelined by its Jewish neighbor.

Senior diplomat Irit Lillian, a former IDF officer who helped patch things up between her country Israel and Turkey, presented her credentials to Erdogan on Tuesday and expressed her hope that bilateral ties would continue to expand.

Lillian described the ceremony on Twitter as a “very emotional moment” and said she was “looking forward to many more positive developments in the bilateral relations in the coming future.”

But things were not as rosy as they seemed after Turkey refused to deport Hamas officers earlier this year.

“We know we are not going into a perfect marriage,” Lillian said back in August.

Turkey has been left out by an east Mediterranean gas forum, but after Netanyahu won elections last month, he reportedly agreed with Erdogan to 'work together to create a new era in relations'

Lillian also famously described her diplomatic years in Turkey as “sailing in the Mediterranean Sea.”

“There are stormier times, and there are the calm times where you just enjoy the view,” Lillian said.

But there was no clear view when it came to Cyprus, an ally to Israel with increasing influence over the years due to a number of mutual interests and Nicosia’s European Union status.

Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides recently appeared hopeful over Nicosia’s proposal for a pipeline to carry Israeli offshore gas to the island for a possible LNG export to Europe through Egypt.

According to Al-Monitor, Pilides “noted that as Netanyahu had previously advanced the issue for Israel and the region, she believes that his new government will do the same.”

But Israeli incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been viewed as a friend by the Greek Cypriots, has sent mixed signals to Nicosia regarding gas exploitation in the region.

Political pundits and energy experts say Netanyahu is likely to expand exploration for natural gas off Israel's shores, at a time when all key players in the region are also searching for deals, including Cyprus, Greece, and Egypt.

Turkey has been left out by an east Mediterranean gas forum, but after Netanyahu won elections last month, he reportedly agreed with Erdogan to "work together to create a new era in relations" on a basis of respect for mutual interests.

Ankara has been accusing Greek Cypriots in the Republic of Cyprus of carrying out unilateral actions on the divided island and further ignoring Turkish Cypriot gas rights.

In early 2022 Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said Nicosia was confident it would not be sidelined as Turkey and Israel began to move ahead with rapprochement.

“No one has ever said that our friend is the enemy of our enemy, that is not how relations between countries are,” Kasoulides told Kathimerini Cyprus in an interview.

Last month Kasoulides praised an Israel-Lebanon maritime deal, saying this was “a very good example for [Cyprus] and Turkey."

Cyprus  |  Israel  |  Turkey  |  ambassador  |  Irit Lillian  |  gas  |  energy  |  Pilides  |  Netanyahu  |  east Mediterranean  |  politics

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