The agreement to build the proposed natural gas pipeline between Turkey and Israel is anticipated to be signed off in the next few months, Director General of the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources of Israel, Shaul Meridor, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Thursday.
Speaking exclusively to AA, Meridor said that Turkey and Israel are progressing in negotiations to build a gas pipeline between Israel and Turkey to transport natural gas supplies from the Leviathan gas field in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel to Europe.
The negotiations involve both commercial Turkish and Israeli companies as well as government officials.
The Leviathan field, discovered in 2009, holds an estimated 613 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas with 39.4 million barrels of condensates. The field is set to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2019.
"First of all there needs to be a commercial agreement, according to Meridor, followed by government-to-government approval to allow the project to move forward.
"I think this will proceed in a good way. But again the commercial side has to be closed, with prices and quantities, etc. This is something that is being discussed," he said.
Although he expressed his optimism that a deal could be made to have Israeli gas exports to Turkey in the coming years, with anticipated talks with Turkish officials in the next few weeks, he said that a deadline for an agreement with Turkey could not be given because discussions are still ongoing and have not concluded yet.
"But I can say that can happen in a few months. From Israel’s perspective, we will do everything as soon as possible. I think Turkey also understands that time is of the essence in that sense. I think everybody wants to strike a deal but I cannot say the exact timeline. My impression is all sides want to move forward," he said.
On the preliminary agreement for the EastMed natural gas pipeline project that was signed between Israel, South Cyprus, Greece and Italy at the beginning of April, Meridor said that Israel does not see the project as a competitor to those with Turkey and Egypt.
The Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) pipeline project is a European project of common interest, which involves an offshore and onshore natural gas pipeline, directly connecting East Mediterranean resources to Greece via Southern Cyprus and Crete.
"We have to have corridors. One of the corridors is with Turkey and is not in competition with the EastMed pipeline or with the Egyptian LNG plants. These are corridors, and all corridors are important for Israel's export strategy since we have found a lot of gas and we have much more gas to be discovered," he added.
Meridor clarified Israel's strategy for the future and said that its aim is to become a major player in the regional market, rather than a major global player.
"We don't think that we will be a major player in the world. Russia has much more gas than Israel and we are no match for Russia's resources and we are not trying to be. We are trying to be a player in the region. From that perspective I think there are two main issues to consider, one is making export routes possible from Israel - the Turkish route, the EastMed pipeline and through LNG facilities in Egypt. The second is finding more gas in Israel and in the region," he noted.
"As we find more gas, we will be a bigger and more important player in the region. It is not only Israel but also the region as a whole. As we strengthen the ties between the countries, we will be a bigger and more important player in the region," he added.
- Price of Israeli gas
The price of Israeli gas will be determined in negotiations between Turkish and Israeli companies, and not through governmental channels, the Israeli minister declared.
"I think the price should take into account not only other gas sources and their prices but also what it gives in terms of security of supply. This is exactly the issue that Turkey and the companies need to agree upon and I am pretty sure that we can agree upon a price," he said.
He declared that the anticipated price in 20 year's time should be taken into account and not the current prices.
He acknowledged that although this is very complex, he felt confident that a good deal could be brokered with Turkey. The volume of gas to be brought to Turkey, which is currently under discussion, could be between five to ten billion cubic meters (bcm), according to Meridor.
- Turkey's exploration activities in Mediterranean
Meridor expressed the Israeli perspective on gas exploration activities in the Mediterranean, by saying that looking for gas in the region is a good sign.
Turkey launched new exploration and drilling activities in the Mediterranean Sea on April 21 with Turkey's first seismic exploration vessel Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa.
Every exploration undertaken in the region can give us a lot of data to better understand the subsea geology, he said adding that, "we believe that more gas in the region is good for Israel and good for everyone because it makes the EastMed basin a larger and stronger source of gas. So we are very much in favor of the South Cypriots' exploration, the Egyptian one and yours," he noted.
Meridor said that Israel hopes that Turkey finds more gas in the region and added, "We would be happy to share our expertise and what we did in Israel with our Turkish friends."
- Cyprus issue
Meridor asserted that Israel respects the ongoing negotiations on the Cyprus Island and is not in a position to take sides noting that the discussions are not Israel's concern.
"Israel cannot take a stand in this complex issue because of its gas exports. I can say that of course we would be very happy if the issue can be solved. I am not sure it is a condition for the pipeline between Israel and Turkey. I cannot elaborate more but I am sure that we will find a way to pass the pipeline through the east of Cyprus," he noted.
- Other cooperation areas in energy
The Israeli director general also shared that the two countries have held discussions on Turkey's initiatives for the Gaza Strip, on photovoltaic systems and in ways to move forward with renewable energy.
"The economic ties between Turkey and Israel are good, and this can deepen further. We help them [Turkey] in its aim to help the Palestinian people there. I believe that as we try strengthen ties in the gas sector, we can have a lot more ties on R&D and on renewables," he noted.
He maintained that Israel's strategy for the people of Gaza is ensuring they have a good life. "We have a lot problems with other issues but their lives are important. In that perspective, electricity in Gaza is something we think is very important and there is a lot of cooperation with Turkey in that area," he concluded.
By Ebru Sengul