World Bulletin / News Desk
Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the 23rd World Energy Congress (WEC), of which Anadolu Agency is the global communication partner for 2016, Steinitz expressed his pleasure to be one of the first Israeli ministers to visit Turkey after several years.
"This is a token of the normalization process that just started between our two states, Turkey and Israel. I came here on behalf of the Israeli government and people. I am confident that most people are eager to see peace and stability in the region and good relations and economic cooperation between Turkey and Israel," Steinitz said.
Steinitz said that his recent meeting with Turkey's Energy Minister Albayrak, on the sidelines of the WEC, was fruitful and they discussed energy and particularly the possibility of building a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey to transfer natural gas to the south of Turkey and onto Europe.
"Of course, we are considering also exporting natural gas to other countries like Jordan which we signed a contract with. Egypt, which also has a pipeline going through Cyprus to Greece will be considered, but the Turkish option is very significant," he said.
"Israel discovered approximately 900 billion cubic meters of natural gas so far, but next month, it will open up Israeli economic waters for further explorations. The scientific estimate is that most of the natural gas is yet to be found, which is around another 2.2 trillion cubic meters," Steinitz said.
"We might end up with approximately 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. This is a lot of gas, much more than Israel can consume, and therefore we would like to consider exporting gas both to our neighboring countries, Jordan and Egypt or to Europe through different pipelines," he said, adding "one of the very important options is connecting Europe through Turkey."
- Welcoming Turkey's efforts for Palestine
Israel would welcome Turkish companies' involvement in the Israeli energy sector and in the exploration of future gas, Steinitz said explaining that many companies already had a presence in Israel.
"We also discussed humanitarian issues of supplying electricity to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. We will continue to discuss this. Israel welcomes any involvement from Turkey in improving the life of the people of Gaza. Of course, we are very careful to maintain security, but the issue of improving life of the Palestinian population in Gaza is not against our interests.
"If the Turkish government and Turkish companies want to be involved in improving the lives of the people in Gaza, we will do our best in order to enable this," Steinitz said.
The Israeli minister also reiterated his support for the normalization of ties and diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey.
"I am glad to participate at the Atlantic Council's Forum in the framework of this important energy conference that is taking place today [Thursday]. This is an important moment for Israeli-Turkey relations," he concluded.
- First official meeting
Turkish Energy Ministry issued a statement saying that Thursday's meeting was the first official ministerial level meeting between the two countries in the past six years since the normalization of bilateral relations.
"The ministers welcomed the normalization of ties and expressed their commitment to casting substance into the relations, for the benefit of both peoples," read the statement.
It added that the ministers stressed the centrality of economic cooperation and in particular, the potential of the energy sector.
"Both ministers expressed their views, stressing the role of the energy sector in the stability and prosperity of the Eastern Mediterranean basin.
"The parties discussed various ways of providing electricity to the Palestinians, including power stations in Gaza and Jenin. In the course of their meeting, the ministers also discussed regional challenges."
- Normalization process
Diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel were disrupted in May 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists on a humanitarian aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, heading for Gaza.
Turkey demanded a number of conditions -- an apology, the payment of compensation and the lifting of Israel’s Gaza blockade -- be fulfilled before the return of normal relations. Ankara now considers these terms as fulfilled.
Turkish and Israeli companies are discussing a possible gas pipeline between Israel and Turkey to transport natural gas supplies to Europe from the Leviathan gas field in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel, which holds an estimated 620 billion cubic meters of gas.