Cyprus, Greece and Israel said on Thursday they would speed up plans for the development of a pipeline channelling gas to Europe from newly discovered east Mediterranean reserves.
European governments and Israel agreed in April to move forward with a Mediterranean pipeline project to carry natural gas from Israel to Europe, setting a target date of 2025 for completion.
“We agreed to expedite our joint actions concerning our agreement on the construction of a large project which will offer new prospects of economic cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told a news conference in Thessaloniki.
He was flanked by President Nicos Anastasiades and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following their trilateral summit.
The planned 2,000-km pipeline aims to link gas fields off the coasts of Israel and Cyprus with Greece and possibly Italy, at a cost of up to €6 billion.
Netanyahu said the so-called East-Med Pipeline “would be a revolution”.
“We’ve had preliminary studies of it and it seems promising and we’re going to look further into it. It’s something we’re very excited about,” he said.
Israel and to a lesser extent Cyprus are thought to be sitting on vast quantities of natural gas wealth given the significant finds reported in the past decade.
Israel has discovered more than 900 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas offshore, with some studies pointing to another 2,200 bcm waiting to be tapped. Along with the European market, it is exploring options to export to Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.
Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field holds an additional 128 bcm, and Cypriot waters are expected to hold more reserves.
Delivery options have included a pipeline linking the three countries, a pipeline to Turkey, and use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage in Egypt for shipment to Europe.
The three leaders said they would also pursue the development of an electricity cable linking their countries.
The EuroAsia Interconnector will carry electricity generated in Israel and sent via Cyprus, the Greek island of Crete and mainland Greece to European grids. Greece had proposed adding fibre optic cables estimated to boost the cost by 10 per cent. It has secured funding of €1.5 billion from the EU and viability studies have been completed.
Co-operation between the three countries in other areas such as economy, science, education as well as the Cyprus issue were also on the agenda, and possible telecommunications integration. The three leaders then signed the Thessaloniki Declaration in which they committed to further cooperation in all spheres.
Anastasiades said the adoption of the declaration was yet another step towards the realisation of the vision of creating an Eastern Mediterranean, which would be a peaceful region promoting cooperation. He also said the trilateral cooperation did not exclude any other state in the region.
“The three governments are determined to promote joint initiatives such as the creation of technology parks, support for SMEs, the promotion of scholarship programmes, strengthening business networks and support to young entrepreneurs and business start-ups,” he said.
The next trilateral summit will be held in Nicosia, towards the end of the year.