Greece, Cyprus, Israel redefine Southern Gas Corridor

Author: Kostis Geropoulos

AGHIA PELAGIA, Crete – Nicosia favours plans to build a pipeline to carry gas from East Mediterranean to Europe, Cyprus’ Deputy Minister to the President for European Affairs Andreas Mavrogiannis told New Europe on 26 May.

The proposed pipeline comprises of a pipeline from Israel’s Tamar, Leviathan and Cyprus Block 12 to Cyprus; a pipeline connecting Cyprus with Crete; and a pipeline from Crete to mainland Greece. “If we see the issue from the point of view of increasing security of supply a pipeline between Israel, Cyprus, Crete, Greece and from there towards the west and the north is a the best solution,” Mavrogiannis said, whose country will assume the Presidency of the European Union on 1 July. “It does not go through any potentially problematic country and for the Union it’s important to have this South Corridor in place in terms of diversification and energy security.”

He said that until now the EU looked at sources from the Caspian in order to diversify its energy supplies. “If we can provide an alternative to this which will have the advantage to provide more energy security, then we are changing the game,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of a conference on EU Energy Security of Supply in Crete on 26 May.

If Greece discovers gas reserves south of Crete that “will make the project more interesting and viable,” he said in Agia Pelagia, a seaside fishing village located 23 kilometres northwest from Crete’s capital city Heraklion. “But already I believe that in the coming months we are going to have a clearer idea when we see what is happening in other plots in the Cyprus continental shelf and the Israeli continental shelf,” Mavrogiannis said.

Asked about Gazprom’s interest in Cyprus’ Blocks, he said the Russian gas monopoly is interested. He brushed off Brussels’ concerns that Gazprom’s involvement may increase the EU’s reliance on Russia. “We are not talking about Russian gas, we are talking about gas coming Cyprus and Israel which are the most reliable. Cyprus is a member of the European Union, Israel is a very serious country and has every reason to rely on Europe so which will be the companies that will exploit the reserves is something that will not affect in any way,” he said.

Asked about Turkey’s reaction to Cyprus’ exploration plans, Mavrogiannis noted that Nicosia needs to be very cautious when it extends licences for those particular areas. “We need to proceed with the second round in order to have clarity about the overall amounts otherwise you cannot do real planning. But there is a line somewhere west of Cyprus, between Cyprus, Greece, Egypt and Turkey which eventually will need delimitation so we need to factor this in to our thinking,” he said.

Asked if Greece should follow Cyprus’ example and pursue its rights to search for hydrocarbons, Mavrogiannis said Athens is proceeding very cautiously. “Don’t forget that there is still on the table casus belli on the part of Turkey,” he said. “On the other hand we have international law on our side… We cannot wait forever and we cannot slowly build more and more grey areas either on the Aegean or between Crete, Rhodes and Castelorizo.”

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