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Mammoth energy project in East Mediterranean: Connecting Cyprus-Israel gas fields - "Tombstone" for EastMed pipeline?

Energy developments in our region are explosive, as Cyprus has announced a plan to link its large gas fields with Israel's gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. It seems both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Christodoulides support the plan, with talks expected to start by July 2023, possibly heralding the end of the EastMed pipeline.

The proposals of the new Cypriot government, in power since March, represent a markedly different approach from previous ones. Instead of the 2,000-kilometre-long EastMed pipeline to continental Europe, the new government is proposing a much shorter interconnection with the fields off Israel.

The relationship between Cyprus, Greece and Israel has evolved into a strategic relationship based on a shared vision for a prosperous Eastern Mediterranean, the President of the Republic of Cyprus said on Monday. The remarks, made at the ongoing Greek-Israeli Forum in Nicosia, came amid developing relations between Israel, Cyprus and Greece in various fields, including energy, defence, tourism, high technology and cyber security.

"Our trilateral cooperation has evolved significantly since its inception and we can proudly say that it is nothing less than a strategic partnership," said President Nicos Christodoulides. "For the Republic of Cyprus, the strengthening and deepening of our already excellent relations with Israel, always in cooperation of course with Greece, is part of a holistic strategy in terms of our foreign policy, which has high on the agenda cooperation with all like-minded countries in the region," he added.

The three-day conference, organised by the B'nai B'rith World Centre in cooperation with the Cyprus Centre for European and International Affairs, the University of Nicosia and the Institute of International Relations (IDIS) of Panteion University in Athens, comes as cooperation between the three Eastern Mediterranean countries has reached historically high levels.

"The fact that we are talking today about this trilateral relationship in terms of a strategic partnership says a lot and was simply unthinkable just 20 years ago," Israel's Ambassador to Cyprus Oren Anolik told JNS.

"We share the same vision for regional cooperation through the creation of many ties at various levels," added Cypriot Justice Minister Anna Koukkidi-Prokopiou, a founding member of the Greek-Israeli Forum. "Our energy plans will further deepen our ties over time."

The conference comes amid the construction of an "energy corridor" linking the national electricity grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece.

The European Union-backed mammoth energy project comes as the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia fuel a global energy crisis that has hit the European Union hard, highlighting the continent's dependence on foreign energy.

The ties received a further boost earlier this year when lawmakers from the United States, Greece, Cyprus and Israel met via teleconference to promote the ties and reaffirm their commitment to the security and prosperity of the three allied countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The 3+1 bipartisan meeting followed the approval of bipartisan legislation proposed in the U.S. Senate that significantly strengthens U.S. support for the modernization of the Greek military, as well as increased multilateral engagement between Cyprus, Greece, Israel and the United States.

A separate trilateral summit between the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel is also scheduled for later this year.

The forum, which will include plenary sessions on defence and energy cooperation, as well as on the impact of the war in Ukraine on the Middle East, is being held for the first time in Cyprus, having previously taken place in Jerusalem four years ago and then in Athens last year.

The event was held at the UNESCO auditorium of the University of Nicosia and brought together dozens of government officials, ambassadors, academics and analysts from the three countries that have been active in promoting the trilateral relationship.

"The complete reshaping of the trilateral relationship has turned into close ties on a wide front from energy to military, tourism and high technology," said Dan Mariaskin, CEO of B'nai B'rith International. "There is no limit to this kind of cooperation."

"The strong and long-lasting trilateral relationship between Israel-Greece-Cyprus is based on solid foundations, on common principles and values and, of course, on a shared vision for our region," Christodoulides concluded.

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