The ninth tripartite alliance summit of Cyprus, Greece and Israel was held in Nicosia on Monday. President Nicos Christodoulides and prime ministers Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Benjamin Netanyahu reconfirmed their commitment to strengthening cooperation in energy, security, defence, academic collaboration and the diaspora.
There is no doubt that the tripartite alliance, which was set up in 2016, has boosted cooperation among the three countries on issues of security, defence and the fight against terrorism. It has also opened the door to the establishment of many Israeli businesses in Cyprus not to mention increasing tourist arrivals. These might not be a direct result of the alliance, but when there is close cooperation between governments, citizens feel secure in the country of an ally.
The United States has encouraged this alliance and has sat in on some of the meetings, while the tripartite is now considering also inviting India to its meetings. President Christodoulides also expressed his gratitude for the help offered by Israel and Greece in fire-fighting this summer and offered his support to Israel which had been the target of a terrorist attack recently.
Despite all the progress made on a range of matters, the main reason for the creation of the tripartite alliance – energy – has not moved from the realm of big words and declarations. It was discussed at Sunday’s bilateral talks between Cyprus and Israel and again on Monday within the context of the tripartite alliance. Before leaving Israel, Netanyahu, said that ways of exporting natural gas would be explored, either through the East Med pipeline or the creation of a liquefaction terminal.
No specifics were mentioned on Monday, Christodoulides restricting himself to saying that natural gas and RES “constitute the primary pillar of cooperation in the area, especially in the light of recent geopolitical developments”. Netanyahu said that soon Israel had to decide how it would export its gas and the same decisions would have to be taken by Cyprus. Mitsotakis said Greece was interested to know how Israeli and Cyprus gas could be exported to Cyprus.
The truth is that no decision of practical cooperation on energy has been taken by the tripartite, despite the many declarations over the years. Israel has signed agreements with Egypt and with Greece in which Cyprus was not involved. And on the very day the tripartite meeting was taking place Israel’s energy minister Israel Katz invited his Turkish counterpart, Albarsan Bairaktar, to visit Israel to discuss the possibility of energy cooperation. Where would this leave the energy cooperation of the tripartite alliance that made so many plans which have not materialised?
While the tripartite alliance has boosted cooperation on a range of issues among the three countries, energy has not been one of them. Energy cooperation has never moved beyond the big declarations to anything of practical import and it appears, after the ninth tripartite alliance summit, there are no plans to change this.