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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

A Growing Energy Alliance: Israel, Greece and Cyprus

On May 8, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met in Cyprus to discuss a proposed pipeline that would supply eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe.

The trilateral relationship between Israel, Greece and Cyprus is strong, based on a number of core issues including security and military cooperation, intelligence exchange and political dialogue. Increasingly, energy cooperation has become yet another foundational issue of this mutually-beneficial relationship.

Referred to as the “energy triangle,” Israel, Greece and Cyprus have formed ties in an effort to strengthen trilateral opportunities in the energy sphere. The countries are exploring new ways to use the gas fields Tamar, Leviathan and Aphrodite, which were discovered in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively.

EastMed Pipeline Project

The three leaders ended their May 8 meeting determined to continue enhancing trilateral cooperation in the energy realm, laying the groundwork for a 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometer) natural gas pipeline. The leaders hope to sign a formal agreement on the pipeline by the end of 2018.

Known as the Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) pipeline, this joint venture would establish an underwater natural gas pipeline from Israel and Cyprus into Greece, from where it could be distributed throughout Europe. The pipeline would be a major milestone for the export of natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean, with a projected annual capacity of up to 20 billion cubic meters (706 billion cubic feet) of gas.

This project is one of the options Israel is exploring to enable natural gas exports. A December report on the EastMed Pipeline Project showed that the project is feasible, despite technical challenges due to the depths involved, according to Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. The project is estimated to take at least until 2025 to complete and will cost more than $7 billion. The European Union (EU), demonstrating its strong interest in the project, has already allocated $41 million, according to Anastasiades.

Tsipras called the project “emblematic” of the cooperation between the three countries. Anastasiades added: “This project creates an unrivalled network of common interests and clear strategic benefit for our countries and beyond since its implementation will tangibly contribute to the security of the European Union’s energy supply.”

Netanyahu called the EastMed pipeline a “very serious endeavor” that is especially important for Europe, which is looking to diversify its energy supply. He also hailed the growing trilateral cooperation through joint trade, tourism and health initiatives. “We are building a great alliance, an alliance for good among our three democracies,” Netanyahu said, while also noting that it is “almost inconceivable that our countries did not have this warm, intimate, and direct contact” in the past.

EuroAsia Interconnector Project

The three leaders also reiterated their support for a project that would involve linking the three countries via undersea electricity and fiber optic cables. Construction of the EuroAsia Interconnector project—a 945-mile (1,520-kilometer) submarine electric cable with a 2,000-megawatt capacity—is expected to commence this year, pending regulators’ approval.

The aim of this project is to connect the power grids of Cyprus, Greece and Israel—creating the world’s longest underwater power cable—thereby linking European and Asian continental power grids.

Follow a 2016 Trilateral Summit, the three countries jointly declared: “We consider that trilateral energy projects, such as the “EuroAsia Interconnector,” are of strategic importance as they will create a mutually beneficial relationship between the energy markets of Israel and Cyprus with those of continental Europe.”

The interconnector will benefit Cyprus in particular by ending its “energy isolation” as the last EU member without any electricity or gas interconnections.

The project would also allow energy created from the eastern Mediterranean natural gas reserves to be transmitted across Europe as electricity, enabling the EU—which is a major backer of this project—to further diversify its energy supply.

The Way Forward: A Growing Alliance

Israel’s trilateral relationship with Greece and Cyprus reaffirms the Jewish state’s position as an important regional actor and energy exporter.  

On top of an energy alliance, the three countries now hold frequent joint military and civil protection exercises, including a planned joint air force drill that will include Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, and other European countries as part of efforts to bolster stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

While Israel, Greece and Cyprus have always been neighbors, this trilateral alliance has reached new heights in recent years.

Type: Near-East-Report Near East Report