Athens agreement bolsters East Med alliance

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By Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos, Ambassador a.h.

The exploration and exploitation by Cyprus and Israel of their offshore hydrocarbon resources were at an advanced stage when in an article I published in ‘Politis’ and the ‘Sunday Mail’ on October 14, 2012, after referring to the existing pipelines, all of which are sourced from, and/or controlled by non-EU member states, I concluded as follows:

“A new East-West additional energy corridor could establish a route by which the EU would be able to diversify its natural gas supply, without being dependent on non-EU sources and transit routes.

We, therefore, propose that the concept of an Eastern Mediterranean Energy Corridor (EMEC) should be given serious consideration, as it could be of considerable strategic and economic importance, not only for our region but to the EU as a whole.”

The signing, therefore, in Athens, on January 2, 2020, by Cyprus, Greece and Israel of the agreement for the construction of the EastMed natural gas pipeline gives me special satisfaction.

A new state of affairs in the Eastern Mediterranean accelerated the signing of the agreement, due to the illegal activities of Turkey in the region.

In this respect, the Athens agreement constitutes a manifest reaction to the signing of the illegal MoU between Turkey and Libya for the delimitation of their exclusive economic zones.

At the same time, the Athens agreement represents a strong political will of not accepting the Turkish faits accomplis for Cyprus.

The signing of the agreement confirms its national sovereignty and the considerable progress achieved in the field of overall cooperation between the three signatories, strengthening the position of Cyprus within the EU and projecting its role in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As far as Europe is concerned, the EastMed pipeline would procure energy security, hence its willingness to finance its technical studies to securing its viability, recognising its geopolitical value, as is confirmed by the recent adoption by the United States of the “EastMed Act”.

It is, also, of interest to note how the Athens agreement was viewed by the three leaders.

President Anastasiades called it a “historic act” which confirms in the most tangible way that the trilateral cooperation has evolved into practical projects with geopolitical values, conferring vast benefits to the countries concerned, but also to the wider region.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis called the agreement “the crowning of a new geopolitical partnership”, which was of geostrategic importance and would contribute to regional peace.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the EastMed agreement represents a historic moment for his country, which is becoming a powerful energy nation.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the three leaders stressed the EastMed pipeline is not intended to antagonise anyone, and that any state wishing to participate in the project is welcomed, on the condition that it follows the fundamental principles of international law and respects the sovereign rights and territorial integrity of other sovereign states.

As was expected, the Turkish reaction came immediately.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement stressed that “any project disregarding Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, who have equal rights over the natural resources of the island of Cyprus is doomed to fail.”

Based on intimidation and aggressive actions, aimed at serving the strategic interests of Turkey, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy argued that the EastMed pipeline is not commercially feasible while pointing out that Turkey is the most viable route for transporting gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.

Along the same lines were also statements by the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, who added that the EastMed pipeline does not help the solution of the Cyprus problem.

In conclusion, given the Turkish challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean and the continued Libyan crisis, which was aggravated by the signing of the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, two blocs have emerged in the Mediterranean: on the one side, Turkey and the Libyan GNA, and on the other, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Egypt and the Libyan LNA.

It is within this framework that the energy companies demanding political security for their investments received a pertinent message from the Athens agreement.
Finally, to those proposing a policy of appeasement for Turkey and objecting to the signing of the EastMed agreement, our answer is that from the moment that Turkey has become a destabilising factor in the eastern Mediterranean, the Athens agreement will have a cumulative effect on Turkey and will become a new element that Turkey will have to take seriously into account in her geostrategic planning.