Turkiye offers best option for East Med gas transit to Europe: former ambassador

With gas supply concerns from Russia-Ukraine war, long-discussed pipeline option between East Med and Turkiye resurfaces, experts say.

Turkiye offers best option for East Med gas transit to Europe: former ambassador

The most feasible option for natural gas transmission from the East Mediterranean to Europe is through Turkiye’s pipeline network, Oded Eran, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University and Israel's former Ambassador to Jordan and the EU told Anadolu Agency (AA).

'The various conflicts, including the 12-year rift between Turkiye and Israel, prevented the exploration of this option and made Israel look for alternatives, Eran said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.

However, Eran said the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and sanctions against Russia have allowed the Turkish option to resurface and discussions between the presidents of Turkiye and Israel could well kickstart the necessary study on this option.

While acknowledging that the combined available gas quantities from Israel and Egypt are not in themselves sufficient to replace Russia as a supplier to Europe, nonetheless, he said they could help mitigate any abrupt shortages.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Turkiye on Wednesday, the first by an Israeli head of state in many years, is seen as a step towards moving from a period of strained ties to improved bilateral relations.

Following a joint news conference with Herzog, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the goal between the two countries is to revive bilateral political dialogue based on common interests.

Erdogan stressed the importance of energy security in the wake of the recent regional developments and called for cooperation in energy projects.

Israel has held previous talks on gas exports to Turkiye, which did not come to fruition.

Eran questioned the political and economic feasibility of a joint gas pipeline project between Turkiye and Israel, given the risks in the politically charged region.

'The various commercial players involved will have to be ensured against political risks in a region fraught with several conflicts and they will have to be guaranteed that there will be a timely return on their investments. These are complicated issues and there are no easy answers to several political hurdles,' he warned.

But he was more optimistic of Turkiye’s role as a link between the East Mediterranean and North Africa, which he deemed are the best regional options for the development of solar energy.

He also advised that cooperation between Turkiye and the East Mediterranean gas-producing countries to promote blue hydrogen as an energy bridging resource would be beneficial in the 30-to-40-year window from now to a full transition to renewables.

Blue hydrogen is derived from natural gas through the process of steam methane reforming (SMR).

Political obstacles between Turkiye and Israel can be overcome

Prof. Michael Tanchum, a non-resident fellow in the Economics and Energy Program at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, also echoed the commercial viability of transporting Israeli gas to Turkiye for domestic use and continuing the well-established export trade to Europe.

He also expressed confidence that political obstacles could be overcome to build a new gas pipeline.

'Technical issues related to building a subsea pipeline are also likely manageable. With events in Ukraine focusing a sense of urgency on natural gas, combined with Turkiye's recent rapprochement efforts with Israel and other Middle Eastern actors, the previous political obstacles could be resolved,' he said.

Tanchum recommended that the transportation of green hydrogen, which is derived from renewable energy sources without CO2 as a by-product and considered the greenest option, could be realized through an Israel-Turkiye pipeline. He also suggested that renewable energy generated in Israel and neighboring countries, like Jordan, could be sent to Turkiye.

'In this manner, the pipeline could also be the start of developing wider cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean for the regional-level approach to the development of renewable energy resources,' he concluded.