'Turkey closer to energy agreement with Israel'

FM refutes allegations of cooperation, says won't discuss Syria with J'lem, or accept Israeli input in affairs of Muslim countries.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal )
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal )
Turkey is closer to coming to an agreement over joint energy projects with Israel, according to a report on Friday in the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman.The recent natural gas discoveries off Israel’s coast led to a discussion over how to best transfer the gas to Europe.
The paper quotes top Turkish officials as stating they are moving to be in favor of “extensive cooperation” with Israel and Cyprus. Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Energy Minister Taner Yildiz were said to have discussed the issue on Friday at an energy conference in Istanbul. Gul said at the conference that Turkey is “ready to contribute to any constructive project,” according to the report.
While Greek Cyprus disputes the gas finds with Turkish Cyprus and Ankara, building a pipeline through Turkey remains the most economical option. The report also stated that the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel will allow Ankara to cooperate with Jerusalem on a gas project, and that Yildiz has already begun planning for possible options.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the Turkish Star last week that Ankara will not accept Israel’s interference in any Muslim country, thus ruling out cooperation with Jerusalem over the crisis in Syria. He also said that the negotiations over the Mavi Marmara flotilla and the conflict in Syria were two separate issues.
Efrat Aviv, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a lecturer in the department of Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post that Turkish media reports have indicated that the country also seeks to be involved in projects with Egypt and Lebanon as part of a regional peace policy.
She said that for Turkey, economic interests often trump other factors, even when it comes to Israel.
Turkey has a team of technical experts working on regional economic cooperation, but on political matters such as the issue of the flotilla, the political leadership has the final say, according to Aviv.
Soner Cagaptay, the director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy stated to the Post that energy politics is one of the major motivators behind Turkish-Israeli rapprochement.
"Talks between Israelis and the Greek Cypriots to jointly exploit Israeli and adjacent Cypriot fields have not reached a conclusion for various reasons, among them Israel's strategic decision not to give up on normalization with Turkey," said Cagaptay.
Israelis viewed a partnership with Greek Cyprus as torpedoing any chance for rapprochement with Turkey, he said adding that "from Ankara's perspective, working with Israel to build a pipeline from the Israeli gas fields into Turkey is an opportunity Turkey cannot miss."
For Turkey, establishing a pipeline from Israel would make the country a valued energy hub, concluded Cagaptay.
The Turkish media is also reporting on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s trip to the US next week to meet with US President Barack Obama.
The Turkish website Anadolu Agency is highlighting the fact that Erdogan will receive the highest state welcome with two full military honors – one at the airport and the other at the White House. Erdogan is set to stay at Washington’s Blair House, the president’s official guesthouse