oil barrels 88.
(photo credit: )
Turkey and Israel are negotiating the construction of a multi-million-dollar energy and water project that will transport water, electricity, natural gas and oil by pipelines to Israel, with the oil to be sent onward from Israel to the Far East, Antalya Mayor Menderes Turel said this week.
The proposal was confirmed by senior officials in the National Infrastructure Ministry.
"We are talking about a global energy project, which would be a very important engine of peace in the region," Turel said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Turel, who was here to take part in an International Conference of Mayors held in Jerusalem, said that the grandiose project had received tentative approval from both Turkey and Israel and would greatly enhance an abrogated landmark 2004 proposal to export water to Israel using large tankers, which proved to be prohibitively expensive.
The new Turkish-Israeli proposal under discussion would see the transfer of water, electricity, natural gas and oil to Israel via four underwater pipelines.
"The whole premise is based on the assumption that Turkey is becoming a major hub for energy in the region," said Gabby Levy, the Director of International Relations at the National Infrastructure Ministry.
The water would be earmarked for Israel as well as for the Palestinian territories and Jordan, who are all suffering from chronic water shortages.
The natural gas and electricity would be geared for Israeli use, at a time when Israel hopes that 40 percent of its energy needs by the end of the decade will be met by natural gas, Levy said.
According to the most elaborate part of the proposal, the oil sent to Israel from Turkey would then be transferred by tankers to the Far East, including to India, China and South Korea, he added.
"The future of emerging energy markets is in the East," the Antalya mayor said.
Delivering the Turkish oil to the Far East with Israel acting as a way station is considered to be more practical than other overland routes.
The project, which would likely receive foreign economic backing, is currently undergoing a feasibility study sponsored by the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank.
The proposal comes at a time when accession negotiations are under way for Turkey's future, but still undated, entry into the European Union, and at a period of burgeoning Israeli-Turkish relations.
Over the last decade and a half, nearly 100 smaller bilateral agreements were signed between the two countries, including in the fields of arms, tourism, and agriculture, Turkish officials said.
Indeed, Turkey has over the last decade become a top vacation spot for Israelis, with 380,000 visiting Turkey last year and almost half of them going to Antalya, the mayor said in the interview.
"Antalya is the home of Israelis in Turkey," he quipped.
In the interview, he played down a failed al-Qaida plan to attack an Israeli cruise ship in the Mediterranean resort last year as "a one-time occurrence." The assailants in the planned attack were captured after an accidental explosion forced them to flee their Antalya safe house.
The would-be attackers are among 73 al-Qaida suspects currently on trial in Turkey for a series of back-to-back suicide bombings in Istanbul in 2003 that killed 58 people.
A Turkish television station reported earlier this year that Taliban chief Mullah Omar financed the failed plot to attack the Israeli cruise ship, transferring $50,000 for the attack.
But the mayor stressed that his city was one of the safest tourist spots in the world. "The figures speak for themselves," he said, noting that 7.2 million tourists visited the Mediterranean inlet last year, which he said was the second biggest tourist destination in the Mediterranean crescent after the Spanish island of Majorca.
"Tourism in itself is a sector of peace," he concluded.