The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel are expected to unite for a joint statement in support of the East Med natural gas pipeline’s development as well as the reinforcement of regional energy security at a summit in Jerusalem this Wednesday, where they will be joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The anticipated declaration by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his respective Cypriot and Israeli counterparts, Nicos Anastasiades and Benjamin Netanhyahu, will represent yet another step towards the development of East Med, promising a transportation route for regional natural gas to EU markets.
Pompeo’s presence at the forthcoming three-way summit, combined with ExxonMobil’s recently declared intention to take part in a new round of Israeli tenders offering licenses, make clear Washington’s determination for a leading role in the Mediterranean.
Discoveries of major natural gas fields in the region and plans for EU-bound transportation routes have increased US interest.
However, many obstacles still lie ahead for the East Med pipeline. These include Italy’s step back as a result of objections expressed by Italy’s Five Star Movement, a member of the country’s far-right coalition. Italy’s environmental ministry has ordered a new environmental impact study for Italy’s Otranto seaside location, where East Med is planned to reach.
Greece, Cyprus and Israel now appear to be examining alternative East Med routes towards Europe, the most favorable option being North Macedonia.
Though Egypt expressed support for East Med last week, Cairo plans to utilize the country’s LNG terminals with the aim of exporting gas in liquefied form. This infrastructure would have an advantage over East Med.
East Med’s commercial feasibility is another concern. Quantities and customers still need to be assured.