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Eastern Mediterranean Gas Discoveries: Is there any Future for Cooperation?

The Eastern Mediterranean has become an area of international attraction especially after 820 bcm of natural gas was recently discovered, between 2009-2012, off the coast of Israel - in places like Tamar, Leviathan, Dalit and Tannin-Karish.-This was followed by further discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean that now total approximately 2.56 trillion cubic meters (tcm). Some specialists have since then exaggerated the potential of Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves and quickly come to the conclusion that this region has the capacity to become not only a gas producer but also a real potential exporter to Europe. Hence, it was hoped that the EU’s longtime energy dependency on Russia could thereby be overcome. Therefore, starting from the mid-2000s the gas discoveries in this region have led many experts to expect tectonic shifts in the strategic future and fortunes of the Levant. Specialists of this view seem to have forgotten the warning of Brenda Shafer that ‘pipelines won’t make or assure peace’. One can describe several examples, in this regard, of how the gas discoveries in the Mediterranean have so far failed to trigger the resolution of many conflicts. For instance, the various attempts to finalize peaceful negotiations between the two communities in Cyprus despite the gas discoveries around the island, especially in the late 2000s, have failed to bring an agreement. What is more striking, although the Tel-Aviv government, after founding off-shore gas fields in Tamar in 2009 and Leviathan in 2010, technically became an energy exporter rather than an importer, its dream of exporting its gas to Europe-nearly 40 percent of its production has not yet been materialized. Israel, since then has only succeeded in supplying small amounts of gas exports in its vicinity, for instance, Egypt. Hence, Tel-Aviv’s Eastern Mediterranean pipeline dream, that hoped to export Israeli gas to Europe, has not been realized. In fact, according to some specialists, there is a high probability that this East Med pipeline project could become a pipedream, like the previous Nabucco project, unless new discoveries are made in the Mediterranean. In fact, as Theodoros Tsakiris asserted, the conventional thinking that was made public after the first discoveries of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, with exaggerated predictions for this region’s future role in gas traffic in Europe, soon proved to be wrong.

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Nurshin ATESHOGLU GUNEY
Prof. MEF University

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