image Photo: Reuters

Israel signs regional EastMed deal

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, together with his counterparts from Egypt, Italy, Greece, Jordan, Cyprus and the Palestinian Authority, signed a charter for the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, giving formal international status to the intergovernmental Energy Organization – at the backdrop of growing tensions with Turkey.

Praising the official formation of the multilateral organization, Minister Steinitz released a statement, saying “The blessing of (Israel’s off-shore) gas (reservoirs) also brings us first-of-its-kind regional cooperation with Arab and European countries, with contracts to export blue and white gas to Jordan and Egypt in the amount of about 30 billion dollars.” The Israeli Energy Minister further asserted that “this is just the beginning.”

In related developments, the European Union failed to overcome a diplomatic standoff over Belarus, after Cyprus emphasized that it would not support EU sanctions on the Eastern European state unless Turkey is simultaneously sanctioned for its behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Prior to the EU Members Foreign Ministerial meeting, Nicosia’s top diplomat stressed that the European Union’s actions must be consistent in all matters that pertain to violations against EU Member States.

“Our reaction to any kind of violation to our core basic values and principles cannot be ‘a la carte.’ It needs to be consistent. I really believe that there is no deadlock to diplomacy,” said Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, adding, “I am here, I am ready to implement the (political) decision that we reached during the Gymnich (Informal EU FMs) meeting.”

Germany is currently blocking harsher European action against Turkey – as it hopes diplomacy will prevail in the East Mediterranean dispute prior to the imposition of punitive actions. Consequently, Cyprus refused to support the Belarusian sanctions.

“We require unanimity and we’re missing one country. This country is Cyprus,” said EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, stressing that, “Cyprus is not opposed to the sanctions against Belarus, but it does not consider that it should bring in its vote and make it possible because it considers that Turkey should be simultaneously sanctioned.”