East Mediterranean states formally establish Egypt-based gas forum

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, center, with US, Israeli and Egyptian ministers during the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, Cairo, July 25, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 22 September 2020

East Mediterranean states formally establish Egypt-based gas forum

  • Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan established the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) as an intergovernmental organization in a virtual ceremony hosted by Cairo
  • The group unites regional rivals of Turkey, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with European Union members Greece and Cyprus over gas drilling rights in the region

CAIRO: Six states signed a charter for an Egypt-based energy forum on Tuesday, giving formal status to a group that seeks to promote natural gas exports from the eastern Mediterranean and that Israel hopes will strengthen ties with Arab neighbors.
Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan established the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) as an intergovernmental organization in a virtual ceremony hosted by Cairo.
The group unites regional rivals of Turkey, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with European Union members Greece and Cyprus over gas drilling rights in the region.
The Palestinian Authority is also part of the forum, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.
France has applied to join, with the United States and European Union requesting observer status.
For Israel, the forum “brings regional cooperation with Arab and European countries, the first of its kind in history, with contracts to export (Israeli) gas to Jordan and Egypt worth $30 billion, and that is just the beginning,” added Steinitz.
Egypt began importing Israeli gas at the start of this year, for possible re-export to Europe or Asia.
The 2015 discovery of the giant offshore Zohr field had unlocked interest in Egypt’s energy market and encouraged Cairo to promote itself as a regional hub.
However, regional politics, infrastructure and transport costs, and rivalry between Turkey and eastern Mediterranean neighbors, complicate prospects for exploiting and transporting gas from the region.


Turkey blasts ‘unauthorized’ German search of Libya-bound ship

Updated 23 November 2020

Turkey blasts ‘unauthorized’ German search of Libya-bound ship

  • The Turkish foreign ministry said Germany’s Hamburg frigate stopped and searched the Roseline A commercial vessel without permission off the coast of Greece’s Peloponnesus peninsula
  • Footage filmed by the vessel’s crew and aired on Turkish television showed a quarrel between crew members and armed German soldiers who landed on the ship from a helicopter

ISTANBUL: Turkey accused the German navy on Monday of conducting an “unauthorized” search on a Turkish-flagged cargo vessel in a bid to enforce a United Nations arms embargo on Libya.
But the European Union’s Operation Irini — tasked with halting arms shipments to the strife-torn north African country — said it had made a “good faith” effort to get Turkey’s consent for the inspection and aborted it as soon as Ankara made its objections clear.
The Turkish foreign ministry said Germany’s Hamburg frigate stopped and searched the Roseline A commercial vessel without permission on Sunday evening off the coast of Greece’s Peloponnesus peninsula.
Footage filmed by the vessel’s crew and aired repeatedly on Turkish television showed a quarrel between crew members and armed German soldiers who landed on the ship from a helicopter.
The Turkish foreign ministry said the vessel was carrying paint and humanitarian supplies headed to the Libyan port of Misrata.
“This intervention was carried out with the consent of neither our country as the flag state nor the ship’s captain,” the Turkish ministry said.
“I am strongly condemning this unlawful intervention,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay added.
Ankara on Monday summoned the EU and Italian ambassadors as well as the German embassy’s charge d’affaires to the foreign ministry, conveying a diplomatic note protesting the “unauthorized” inspection, the foreign ministry said.
The action was “against international law,” the ministry said in the note, adding that Turkey reserved its right to compensation.
But both the operation’s European command and officials in Berlin said Turkey raised its objections only after the German soldiers had boarded the vessel.
“Everything went exactly according to protocol,” a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
Operation Irini said in statement that it had “made good faith efforts to seek (Turkey’s) consent.”
“When (Turkey) made it clear that it denied the permission to inspect the vessel, Operation Irini suspended the activities during which no evidence of illicit material was found,” it said.
Operation Irini’s official website says the mission reserves the right to board ships without permission when conducting so-called “friendly approaches.”
Libya has endured almost a decade of violence since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Turkey backs the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in western Libya and views the EU mission as biased in favor of the eastern command — backed by the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia and France.
The warring sides agreed a cease-fire deal last month that paves the way for national elections on December 24.
But the process remains fragile and four EU powers involved in efforts to end the conflict issued a joint statement Monday threatening sanctions against “all Libyan and international parties” standing in the way of peace.
Operation Irini said the aborted inspection of the Turkish vessel was the fifth since the mission was officially launched on March 31.
Turkey last sparred with EU powers over inspections when a French frigate under NATO command sought in June to search a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship.
Paris then complained that one of its ships was subjected to radar targeting by Turkish frigates while trying to inspect the cargo.
Ankara denied the charge.