Spotlight: Mediterranean natural gas group without Turkey ineffective: experts

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-23 18:19:12|Editor: xuxin
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by Burak Akinci

ANKARA, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Mediterranean countries have established a natural gas board but preferred to exclude Turkey. Local experts warned that ostracizing the regional player from the equation makes the new forum irrelevant.

Countries around the eastern Mediterranean made an important move with the creation of a forum participated by Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, and other neighbors to develop their new natural gas discoveries.

The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, announced on Jan. 13 in Cairo, Egypt, formalizes growing energy ties among recent rivals for the development of energy infrastructure to tap the region's energy potential for Europe and beyond.

But the new board has a major absent, Turkey, as well as other nations such as Syria and Lebanon, which would render the new born organization ineffective, according to specialists.

"It seems that political considerations have prevailed over economic considerations and therefore Turkey has been excluded from this forum," Altay Atli, an international political economy analyst from Istanbul's Koc University, said to Xinhua.

"An organization which does not include Turkey in eastern Mediterranean cannot succeed," he said, pointing out that Turkey is in fact the missing link here between natural gas producing countries and potential buyers from Europe as a transit hub with experiences.

Atli is very doubtful on how founding forum members would be able to sell their potential gas to their main market, Europe, without Turkey. "It would double gas prices and would not be feasible."

The newly created forum cements the growing commercial links between Israel and Egypt, Turkey's rivals in the Mediterranean. Israel expects to start shipping natural gas to Egypt in the next few months as part of a 15-billion-U.S. dollar deal between the two countries.

In 2018, Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that Ankara would not allow other regional actors to exclude Turkey in eastern Mediterranean affairs, particularly with regards to energy reserves.

"All parties involved have to unite on a common basis if there is a will to cooperate in producing and transferring energy resources of the Mediterranean. Otherwise many issues will come back in an even more divisive manner in the future," said Ismail Kavaz, a researcher of the Ankara-based think-tank SETA.

Atli echoed his comments arguing that the new body is making an already tense situation more complex.

The expert expressed hope that "economic realities" in eastern Mediterranean would push members of the natural gas body to reconsider their decision to exclude Turkey.

Ankara recently warned once again that all initiatives not including Turkey would be doomed to fail.

In an interview with Turkey's NTV news channel, Cavusoglu suggested that all parties shared the same view. "They are discussing other things to muddy the water," he said. "If it doesn't go through Turkey it won't be viable and there won't be any point to extract it."