Greece says huge gas pipeline deal with Israel, Cyprus to be signed January 2
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Greece says huge gas pipeline deal with Israel, Cyprus to be signed January 2

Burgeoning alliance comes as Turkey attempts to lay claim to eastern Mediterranean energy reserves

File: Greek Minister of Environment and Energy Kostas Hatzidakis, second left, shakes hands with Israel's Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, right, as US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Francis Fannon, second right, and Cyprus's Energy Minister Georgios Lakkotrypis , left, look on during a summit in Athens, August 7, 2019. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)
File: Greek Minister of Environment and Energy Kostas Hatzidakis, second left, shakes hands with Israel's Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, right, as US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Francis Fannon, second right, and Cyprus's Energy Minister Georgios Lakkotrypis , left, look on during a summit in Athens, August 7, 2019. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece — The Greek government said Sunday that it will sign an agreement for a huge pipeline project with Cyprus and Israel next month that is designed to ship gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.

The move comes amid tensions with Turkey over its own activities in the area and a contentious maritime deal with Libya, expanding Ankara’s claims over a large gas-rich area of the sea.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s office said the agreement for the EastMed pipeline would be signed in Athens on January 2 with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

The 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) pipeline will be able to transfer between nine and 12 billion cubic meters a year from offshore gas reserves between Israel and Cyprus to Greece, and then on to Italy and other southeastern European countries.

The discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has sparked a scramble for the energy riches and a dispute between Cyprus and Turkey, which has occupied the north of the Mediterranean island since 1974.

The drilling vessel Fatih, which was deployed by Turkey to search for gas and oil in waters considered part of the EU state’s exclusive economic zone, in the Mediterranean Sea, off Cyprus, June 24, 2019. (AFP)

Turkey already faces European Union sanctions over ships searching for oil and gas off Cyprus, whose internationally recognized government in Nicosia is not recognized by Ankara.

The EastMed project is expected to make Cyprus, Greece and Israel key links in Europe’s energy supply chain and aims to stymie Turkey’s effort to extend its control to the eastern Mediterranean.

“It is really important that the countries showed they can react quickly against Turkey’s provocative stance,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.

Greece responded angrily to the Turkey-Libya deal, expelling the Libyan ambassador and urging the UN to condemn it.

Part of the deal sets a maritime boundary between the two countries, which Greece says fails to take into account the island of Crete.

The Leviathan natural gas platform off the shore of Israel. (Albatross)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this month that he envisaged joint energy exploration activities with Libya in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey already has ships searching for oil and gas off Cyprus, and says the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — recognized only by Ankara — has the right to explore around the entire island.

“The EastMed pipeline agreement will go forward despite what Erdogan says,” Greek Energy and Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said Sunday.

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