Netanyahu talks with Greek, Cypriot leaders about natural gas supply to Europe
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Netanyahu talks with Greek, Cypriot leaders about natural gas supply to Europe

Regional allies discuss proposed pipeline that could feed 20 billion cubic meters to growing European market

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, center, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades shake hands during their meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city, on June 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, center, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades shake hands during their meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city, on June 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Wednesday with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to discuss a project that would see Israel pump natural gas to both countries and then on to Europe.

Netanyahu talked first with Anastasiades, then later with Tsipras, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

During the conversations the leaders discussed regional topics and advancing feasibility studies for laying a gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus, then on to Western Europe via Greece, the PMO said.

A trilateral meeting is planned for May.

Netanyahu met Tsipras and Anastasiades in June after the three countries signed a joint declaration in Tel Aviv in April to promote construction of the pipeline.

Illustrative photo of Israeli natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea, September 2, 2015. (Flash90)

The proposed pipeline would start about 170 kilometers (105 miles) off Cyprus’s southern coast and stretch for 2,200 kilometers (1,350 miles) to reach Otranto, Italy, via Crete and the Greek mainland.

It will have the capacity to carry up to 20 billion cubic meters (706 billion cubic feet) of gas yearly. Europe’s gas import needs are projected to increase by 100 billion cubic meters (3.5 billion cubic feet) annually by 2030.

In December, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said a study on the so-called EastMed Pipeline Project shows that the link is feasible, even though it presents technical challenges due to the depths involved.

Speaking ahead of the signing of an agreement between Cyprus, Israel, Greece and Italy affirming their commitment to moving ahead with the project, Steinitz told The Associated Press the estimated 6.2 billion euro ($7.36 billion) pipeline could take 6-7 years to build and that the countries involved “are serious about it.”

Italian ambassador in Cyprus Andrea Cvallari, right, Israel’s Energy minister Yuval Steinitz, second right, Greece’s Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis, second left, and Cyprus’ energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, left, shake hands after their talks in Nicosia, Cyprus, December 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Steinitz said at the time significant deposits already discovered in the east Mediterranean, including Israel’s Leviathan field, are “just the tip of the iceberg” and that “it’s very likely” that more gas will be found in Cypriot waters.

He noted an Israeli-commissioned study estimated that further exploration off Israeli waters could find more than three times the 1 trillion cubic meters (35.31 trillion cubic feet) of gas that’s already been discovered.

Greece and Israel are also planning an undersea electricity cable link and are also considering a Mediterranean data cable.

Once frosty, Israel’s ties with Greece and Cyprus have markedly improved in recent years, coinciding with a spat between Israel and regional rival Turkey.

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