By Leslie Susser, JPOST
The three countries share obvious economic interests in what they call the “energy triangle” in the Eastern Mediterranean, where both Israel and Cyprus have discovered huge natural gas deposits.
One of the more ambitious joint projects is to build an undersea gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus to Crete to mainland Greece to facilitate gas exports to Europe; in parallel there are plans for a 2000 megawatt undersea electricity cable, the “EuroAsia Interconnector,” which would follow much the same route, linking the Israeli electricity grid to those of Cyprus, Greece and mainland Europe, thereby providing Israel’s currently isolated power system with strategic backup.
There are common military interests too: primarily defending the “energy triangle,” but also joint military exercises and additional training space for the Israel Air Force after the loss of Turkish skies in 2010.
The close ties are based on a confluence of strategic interests in a turbulent war-torn region. All three have a common interest in keeping the chaotic Syria situation from spilling over into their domain; in other words, keeping Islamic State (ISIS) and the newly dominant Russia-Iran-Hezbollah axis at bay. All three recognize the need for new local alliances given the decline of American influence in the region.
Their tripartite partnership is also a counterweight to Turkey’s hegemonic regional ambitions.
But at the same time, all three declare willingness to widen the alliance to include other key players like Egypt and Italy and, in certain circumstances, perhaps even Turkey itself. The goal would be a wide moderate front made up of non-Arab Eastern Mediterranean/Middle Eastern countries and moderate Sunni states, backed by the US, despite its perceived regional pullback.
The Israel, Greece, Cyprus alliance, therefore, has solid foundations and could form the basis for something bigger. But, in itself, it is hardly a substitute for relations with more powerful players.
The joint economic interests, however, are of potentially major significance. In August 2013, the three countries signed a tripartite energy memorandum providing for the laying of the EuroAsia Interconnector, set to be the longest undersea electricity cable in the world. It will run from Hadera in Israel 329 kilometers to Vasilikos in Cyprus, 879 kilometers from Cyprus to Crete and 310 kilometers from Crete to mainland Greece, a total of 1,518 kilometers or 950 miles. From Greece the cable will fork northwest to Italy and Switzerland and northeast to Serbia and Bulgaria.
The project, which will cost an estimated 1.5 billion euros, has EU backing as part of its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program. The work will be carried out by a Cypriot-led consortium including Cyprus’s DEH-Quantum Energy Group and Greece’s state-controlled Public Power Corporation, with the target date for the Israel-Cyprus leg, 2019, and completion of the project as a whole set for 2022. Electricity will flow in both directions, enabling significant energy savings. Importantly for war-threatened Israel: it will provide the local electricity grid with crucial backup if its own production facilities are damaged.
LESS PLAUSIBLE is the mooted undersea gas pipeline from Israel through Cyprus and Greece …read more