Who will determine the energy route in Eastern Mediterranean? - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

Who will determine the energy route in Eastern Mediterranean?

The Eastern Mediterranean is a region that has high potential in terms of energy supply security. The increased likelihood of carrying natural gas to Turkey and through to EU countries increases the significance of the Eastern Mediterranean in the field of energy.

As a matter of fact, the U.S. and EU countries all support the inclusion of Eastern Mediterranean energy in the energy equation because introducing energy from the Eastern Mediterranean would form an alternative to Russia, which holds significant power in the field of energy.

Israel's choice in the energy route

However, introducing energy from the Eastern Mediterranean to the energy system is not merely an economic matter, as there are different countries in the region each with their own dynamics. One of the countries that is both a direct actor in energy and has an impact on regional dynamics is Israel.

Although Israel acts like it owns natural gas source and like a reluctant seller with the 620-billion-square-meter natural gas reserves in its Leviathan field, it needs to take into account the cost of carrying such a large amount of reserves.

What determines significance in the energy equation is not being in possession of energy, but rather its usability. Energy that is not used or not in circulation is richness for the land alone. It should be remembered that under these market conditions, what is important in natural gas markets is consumption, namely, the transmission of natural gas to international markets.

Even though Israel acts like a reluctant seller in the international energy field, it, too, is very well aware of this fact. Hence, it is working to determine new routes to carry natural gas.

Actually, looking at these three actors, Israel's goal to exclude Turkey from the energy equation is clear in the different blocs it is trying to form. It is working to develop routes that do not include Turkey to shift its center of gravity in energy to Greece, Greek Cyprus and Egypt.

Of course, the economic cost is not the sole reason that Israel prefers these countries. The fact that all three countries have problematic relations with Turkey should not be ignored. Following its protection of coup plotters after the July 15 coup attempt, Greece also joined the problems that exist with Egypt and Greek Cyprus. In other words, the moves made in energy are not independent of the incidents happening in the political domain.

On a different note, as the owners of the gas in the Mediterranean, in addition to Israel, the Palestinians also need to take a certain share of this income. Similar to how the energy revenue is shared between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq and the Iraqi central government.

Turkey is a reluctant consumer

However, despite all this, the dynamics within the energy sector itself are strengthening Turkey's position in the energy equation. In recent years, the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has also dropped along with the decrease in oil prices. In this case, selling natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Egypt's LNG plants will not provide a profitable agreement in terms of cost.

Also, the questions regarding Egypt's current political state and future are ongoing. In addition to economic power, political stability is also necessary for the construction of a natural gas line and LNG terminals. What is needed is not a short-term relationship, but an atmosphere of long-term political stability and economic confidence.

In terms of the Greek Cypriot government, a project named the East Med natural gas pipeline is projected to go to Crete and from there to mainland Greece is on the agenda. Israeli gas also being transferred to the pipeline to reach the European market is among the transfer options for gas from the Leviathan field.

However, the limited natural gas reserves bellow Greek Cypriot waters are not adequate to meet the needs of such a high-cost project. Also, as long as the Cyprus problem remains unsolved, the implementation of this project does not seem likely.

Hence, in order to transfer the offshore gas from Israel and Cyprus to Europe through Turkey and for Turkey to become both a bridge and trade hub for energy, the Cyprus problem first needs to be solved.

Regardless of the angle or route, both Turkey's geographical position and the state of natural gas prices and political dynamics in the energy equation, gives Turkey the advantage over actors that have natural gas reserves.

With its existing geographical position and strong economy, Turkey is the most ideal route in long-term energy projects requiring mutual trust and stability. Turkey also always has different alternatives in its region and, in terms of its position, is a reluctant consumer.


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