MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: In Gesture to Turkey Biden Administration Drops Support for Israel-Cyprus-Greece Gas Pipeline

By  David Israel  – Jan 13, 2022 JEWISH EXPRESS redit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

The US is no longer supporting the construction of the EastMed gas pipeline project, according to a statement of the State Department that suggests the Biden administration’s interest is switching to renewable energy sources.

Greek news media have pointed out this week that the move benefits Turkey, which the US is courting.

The EastMed Pipeline accord was signed in Athens by the leaders of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel on January 2, 2020. On July 19, 2020, the Netanyahu government officially approved the accord, allowing the signatory countries to move forward with plans to complete the pipeline by 2025. Now it’s not clear whether any of that will materialize.According to Reuters, the US has expressed misgivings regarding the underwater pipeline, which Greek government sources described as a U-turn from the policy of the Trump administration.

The State Department this week issued a statement saying: “We remain committed to physically interconnecting East Med energy to Europe. We are shifting our focus to electricity interconnectors that can support both gas and renewable energy sources.”

The statement added that since Europe’s energy security is more than ever a question of national security, “we are committed to deepen our regional relationships and promote clean energy technologies.”

According to the State Dept., the US is now supporting the planned EuroAfrica subsea electricity interconnector from Egypt to Crete and the Greek mainland, and the proposed EuroAsia interconnector to link the Israeli, Cypriot, and European electricity grids, because “such projects would not only connect vital energy markets but would also help prepare the region for the clean energy transition.”

The Greek OPEN TV channel suggested the White House believes the EastMed pipeline is causing tensions in the Mediterranean basin, which is why it prefers other projects that would bring political stability.

Back when the accord was signed, a spokesperson for the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a hostile statement saying: “The signature of the agreement on the EastMed natural gas pipeline project is the latest instance of futile steps, aiming to exclude Turkey and TRNC (the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) in the region. Any project disregarding Turkey, which has the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Turkish Cypriots, who have equal rights over the natural resources of the Island of Cyprus, cannot succeed. We bring this fact once more to the attention of the international community.”

And, naturally, when Turkey speaks, the Biden White House listens.

The Europeans also appear to be backtracking on the deal that should have solved their natural gas issues for decades to come, reducing EU dependence on Russian gas. The Israeli-Cypriot-Greek pipeline’s planned capacity is 10 billion cubic meters (BCM) of natural gas, with the possibility of doubling it.

In recent months, Europe has been suffering from an energy crisis, during which natural gas prices rose to record highs and led to a surge in electricity prices. At the same time, Russia, Europe’s largest gas supplier, is causing its price to rise for geopolitical reasons. In response, Europe strives to diversify its energy sources, which contributes to its jaded view of the economic feasibility of the EastMed project.

In late October 2021, a European Commission official told EURACTIV Greece that EastMed was a “complex project,” and “the Commission’s analysis from the climate target impact assessment shows that unabated use of natural gas is not compatible with the long-term decarbonization objective.”

“Low-carbon gases such as hydrogen, biogas, and synthetic gas should progressively replace natural gas. What will be key is that the infrastructure we have or invest in is ready to support these new energy carriers,” the official said.