Natural gas export from Israel’s Leviathan reservoir to Turkey will remain impossible as long as the Israel-Gaza conflict persists, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Monday.
Only after a permanent cease-fire has been declared and stability returns to the region could the minister even consider discussing the matter, reported Turkey’s English newspaper, Hurriyet Daily News.
Calling for “an end to the cruelty in Palestine,” Yıldız said that his country’s “door will be closed,” until calm has been attained, the newspaper added.
“If we build a natural gas pipeline from Israel or the eastern Mediterranean under these circumstances, the blood of innocent infants and mothers, not natural gas, would flow through it,” Yıldız said, according to the Hurriyet report.
Yıldız is a member of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, of which Prime Minister Recep Erdogan serves as chairman.
The 621-billion cubic meter Leviathan gas reservoir, located about 130 km. west of Haifa, is expected to begin flowing in 2017. Leviathan’s smaller, 282-b.cu.m. neighbor to its east, Tamar, began generating gas for the Israeli domestic market in March 2013.
While the Israeli government approved an export policy in June 2013, capping exports to 40 percent, the question still remains to whom the reservoir’s developers will be selling the gas – aside from small agreements with Jordanian Dead Sea factories and a future Palestinian power plant.
Both Cyprus and Turkey, the latter of which does not recognize the former’s sovereignty over the entire Cypriot island, have courted Israel – Cyprus through liquefied natural gas (LNG) export options and Turkey through a pipeline.
Meanwhile, the Leviathan developers have also signed letters of intent to potentially make use of abandoned LNG facilities in Egypt.
In response to Yıldız’s announcement, Turkish opposition party member Dr. Aykan Erdemir told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that a Turkish-Israeli pipeline “can only result from constructive thinking and win-win mentality on both ends of the project.”
“It is a pity to witness that Turkish and Israeli governments are locked in self-destructive thinking and lose-lose mentality,” said Erdemir, a member of the Turkish parliament in the Republican People’s Party.
“Both governments are not only missing out on economic opportunities but also the opportunity to build greater interdependence and sustainable peace,” he said. “It seems that it will require a new generation of politicians to overcome short-sighted populism and entrenched bigotry in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Erdemir had previously spoken with the Post on the sidelines of a Hebrew University conference on natural gas in November, during which he expressed the idea of a “peace pipeline” that would connect the gas and infrastructure of Israel, Turkey and Cyprus.
Dr. Amit Mor, CEO of Eco Energy, said that while the option of exporting Israeli gas to Turkey should not be ruled out, LNG export schemes through Egypt and other options, such as floating LNG (FLNG) off Israel’s own shores, should be promoted.
“Export of Israeli gas to Turkey is a most economically viable project for both countries,” Mor told the Post.
“Nevertheless, restoration of the bilateral diplomatic relations and both government approvals are preconditions for the materialization of the project.”
Gina Cohen, a consultant in Israel's natural gas industry who also lectures at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Natural Gas and Petroleum Engineering Graduate Study Program, likewise emphasized the complexity of the situation, due to “the triangle of countries that would be involved with this project.”
“However, gas deals are often made between countries that have complex relationships, and so let us hope that reality and emotions cool down soon and that business relationships based on regional pipeline gas deals can help somewhat to reestablish the calm we all yearn for,” Cohen said.