Natural gas prospects to top PM’s agenda for visit to Israel

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is scheduled to travel to Israel tomorrow with energy interests at the top of the official visit’s agenda ahead of a three-way meeting between the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Tsipras is expected to be joined by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Hristos Spirtzis, State Minister Nikos Pappas, and government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili.

The trip, to include the Greek Prime Minister’s first official visit to Jerusalem, tomorrow, and Ramallah on Thursday, will offer participating officials the opportunity to discuss latest developments concerning the utilization of deposits in the east Mediterranean and natural gas export plans.

Tsipras is scheduled to hold a meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, while meetings have also been planned to take place with President Reuven Rivlin, the country’s energy minister, and the opposition leader.

The Greek team intends to be informed by Israeli officials on the country’s natural gas export plans as well as its views on the strategic partnership with Greece and Cyprus, based on the region’s latest energy developments, such as the discovery by Eni of the enormous Zohr offshore natural gas field in the Egyptian sector of the Mediterranean, as well as the BG Group’s 35 percent holding, announced today, of a Cypriot offshore area, Block 12, which includes the Aphrodite gas discovery.

Tsipras and Netanyahu are expected to confirm the positive bilateral ties countries developed between Greece and Israel over the past few years, while also making clear this path will continue with Syriza at Greece’s helm.

Israel is currently examining its natural gas export options, which include transport to Cyprus and export through East Med – a planned pipeline to be comprised of a network of submarine and overland infrastructure offering a direct link for deposits in the southeast Mediterranean area with the European gas network via Greece – or a new LNG station; transport to Turkey; and transport to Egypt followed by export through the country’s LNG stations. These options all have their pros and cons. Athens is following the developments and maintaining an interest to possibly play a role in one of these chains.

The BG Group’s holding in Aphrodite has reportedly increased the prospects of the third Egypt-linked option being chosen, as has also been confirmed by Nicosia.

Egypt’s possible role as a fourth member in the regional geopolitical partnership involving Greece, Cyprus, and Israel will also be discussed during the Greek delegation’s visit to Israel.