Will Turkish call for cooperation in Eastern Mediterranean bear fruit?

As Turkey has renewed the call for cooperation in the hydrocarbon-rich Eastern Mediterranean, some analysts are skeptical about whether the call would bear fruit.

Cahit Armagan Dilek, director of the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute, said that Turkey is unlikely to get any positive response, considering its sour relations with Israel, Egypt and Syria.

Greece, Israel and Cyprus signed a deal earlier this month to construct an undersea pipeline the EastMed project to transport natural gas to Europe via Greece.

“It’s not economically, legally or diplomatically possible for a project in which Turkey is excluded in the Eastern Mediterranean to be carried out,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Ankara proposes a pipeline passing through Cyprus and Turkey to transport natural gas from Eastern Mediterranean to Europe.

Necdet Pamir, a leading energy analyst, said it is still possible for Ankara to win over Israel due to lingering questions about the feasibility of the EastMed pipeline project.

“From the very start, Israel seeks to transport the gas via Turkey to Europe,” he told Xinhua. However, the negative attitude of the two political parties in power in both countries makes such cooperation difficult, he added.

Israel sees Turkey as a major potential market for its natural gas, said Pamir, energy director of Sigma Turkey, an Ankara-based think tank.

Turkey already has a natural gas pipeline network capable of carrying Russian and Azeri gas to Europe.

Under the EastMed project, the gas will be transported by an undersea pipeline to the Greek island of Crete and then to the mainland Greece to reach Italy, which makes the project not only costly, but also technically challenging.

“Unless transported via Turkey, it is not possible for the eastern Mediterranean natural gas to compete with the Russian gas in the European market in terms of price,” said Pamir.

“Besides, the gas reserves so far discovered (by Cyprus and Israel) are not so rich as to make the construction of the costly EastMed pipeline feasible.”

Amid rising tension with litoral states, Turkey signed in November a controversial maritime boundary memorandum with Libya’s U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord.

The memorandum, which Athens claims to be legally invalid, not only partly covers some area also claimed by Greece, but also intersects the route of the EastMed pipeline project.

Even Egypt could be persuaded into cooperation if Turkey would “change its discourse in foreign policy,” Pamir said.

The recent deployment of Turkish troops in the war-torn Libya to support the U.N.-backed government has further strained Turkey’s ties with Egypt which backs the rival faction in Libya.