US voices misgivings over EastMed gas pipeline - Paphos Investments

US voices misgivings over EastMed gas pipeline

US voices misgivings over EastMed gas pipeline

The United States has confirmed media reports of its misgivings over the EastMed subsea natural gas pipeline, in an apparent U-turn over a project supported by the former Trump administration.

In a press release on Monday, the US embassy in Athens said Washington is “shifting our focus to electricity interconnectors that can support both gas and renewable energy sources”.

It added: “We support projects such as the planned EuroAfrica interconnector from Egypt to Crete and the Greek mainland, and the proposed EuroAsia interconnector to link the Israeli, Cypriot and European electricity grids. Such projects would not only connect vital energy markets but would also help prepare the region for the clean energy transition.”

However, the US government qualified that it remains committed to physically interconnecting eastern Mediterranean energy to Europe.

“The United States continues to strongly support regional efforts that enhance and promote cooperation and regional stability, including the 3+1 mechanism in which the Republic of Cyprus (ROC), Greece, Israel, + the United States participate.”

The US embassy statement came after media in mainland Greece revealed contents of a US State Department non-paper (akin to an unofficial communique) sent to Cyprus, Greece and Israel, conveying Washington’s views on the mooted EastMed project.

Nicosia has yet to react to the US position.

Picking up on the story, daily Haravghi in Cyprus next contacted the Cyprus foreign ministry. A source there confirmed the existence of the American non-paper.

In the leaked non-paper, the US government also said its position was not driven by geopolitical reasons, nor should it be read as an outcome of pressure from Turkey.

Ankara has repeatedly said that any plans in the eastern Mediterranean that exclude it were bound to fail and that it would defend its rights in the region. It has also opposed the EastMed project, saying the plan could not work without Turkey’s approval.

On Tuesday, an unnamed source told the Reuters news agency: “The American side expressed to the Greek side reservations as to the rationale of the EastMed pipeline, (and) raised issues of its economic viability and environmental (issues).”

Cyprus, Greece and Israel signed in January 2020 an “historic” agreement for the construction of the pipeline, considered a project of common interest of energy infrastructure in Europe.

It aims to transfer between 9 and 12 billion cubic metres a year of offshore gas pumped in fields between Israel and Cyprus to Greece, and then onto Italy and other southeastern European countries.

The countries had aimed to reach a final investment decision this year and have the €6 billion scheme completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.

The European Commission was supposed to have published an economic feasibility study by the end of 2021.

In late October 2021, a European Commission official told Euractiv Greece the EastMed was a “complex project” and that, to be able to determine its commercial viability, the assessment must reflect the EU’s decarbonisation goals and future gas demand.

“The Commission’s analysis from the climate target impact assessment shows that unabated use of natural gas is not compatible with the long-term decarbonisation objective,” the official said.

Asked to comment, geopolitical analyst Zenonas Tziarras said the news does not really mark a shift in US policy.

“It is just that now the United States has made its views crystal-clear, that’s the difference,” he told the Cyprus Mail.

It’s understood that Washington has been at best lukewarm to the idea for the past six years at least.

Why the move is now being read as a ‘surprise’ among Greek and Cypriot circles, Tziarras added, could be attributed to the pomp around the project created by those two very countries.

Also, said the analyst, one should keep in mind that the United States is interested in selling its own LNG and may not want to sponsor competing pipeline gas.

 

 

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