Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)
The focus of the talks between Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot Prime Minister Nicos Anastasiades is expected to be on energy-related issues, as has been the case the previous three times.
Each of those summits dealt, as this one is expected to do as well, with the feasibility of laying a pipeline from Israel to Cyprus, and from there to Greece and onward to Italy.
A memorandum of understanding regarding the pipeline was signed in December.
Netanyahu told his cabinet ministers on Sunday that the export of Israeli gas to Western Europe could “make a very significant contribution to the Israeli economy.”
European governments and Israel agreed in April 2017 to move forward with the ambitious Mediterranean pipeline project, setting a target date of 2025 for completion. The cost of the 2,000-km. pipeline is expected to reach some $6.7 billion.
Europe is keen to diversify its energy supplies, and Greece wants to promote itself as a hub for the transit of gas from the eastern Mediterranean to the continent.
Turkey, which is also interested in diversifying its energy sources, has in the past expressed an interest in Israel laying a pipeline to Turkey, one of the reasons proffered in the past for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s willingness to resume full diplomatic relations with Israel in 2016, despite his oft-expressed enmity toward the Jewish state.
While the alternative of exporting gas to Europe through Turkey would be the cheaper option, Jerusalem is reluctant to do so because of Erdogan’s hostility.
Up until the early 2000s, Greece and Cyprus were among the most critical countries toward Israel in Europe. This changed, however, in the middle of the last decade with Israel’s discovery of natural gas in the Mediterranean, and because of a sharp deterioration in Israeli-Turkish ties.
Cyprus and Greece are historic rivals of Turkey, with the Turks having occupied the northern half of Cyprus since 1974. Turkey’s action in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, where the country wants to develop a natural gas field, is also expected to be discussed on Tuesday.
In February, Turkish warships blocked a vessel bound for drilling activities in these waters, an action the Cypriots deemed “provocative.”
This issue was a topic of discussion in March when Cyprus’s Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides was in Israel.
This will mark the second time the Greek-Israeli-Cypriot summit will be held in Nicosia. The first such meeting in January 2016 was held in the Cypriot capital, followed by a meeting in December 2016 in Jerusalem, and another in June 2017 held in Thessaloniki.
Netanyahu is scheduled to be welcomed in an official ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, followed by a bilateral meeting with Anastasiades. Then, after the Greek and Cypriot leaders meet separately, the three leaders will hold a joint meeting, followed by the signing of bilateral agreements and a press conference.
Netanyahu will return to Israel Tuesday evening, and fly to Moscow on Wednesday for an urgent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid increasing tensions in Syria and between Israel and iran.
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