The planned gas agreement between Egypt and Israel will advance the joint project of creating an energy hub to Europe.
Gas exploration and exploitation are major geopolitical issues in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Two axes are confronting each other, on the one hand the Israeli-Egyptian axis supported by Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. On the other, the Turkish axis supported by Russia. 2 strategies, 1 sea.
Israeli-Egyptian gas agreement: a future energy hub to Europe
This gas agreement provides for the construction of an offshore gas pipeline. It will allow Israeli natural gas to be transported from Leviathan to the Egyptian infrastructure.
For several years, the two countries have been cooperating on energy issues. In 2019, they agreed that Israel will supply gas to Egypt for 15 years. 85 billion m3 will be delivered from 2020.
For a long time, the Hebrew state depended on Egypt for its gas supply. But since the discovery of the Tamar field in 2009 (318 km3) and the Leviathan field in 2010 (605 km3), its status is changing. It is now an exporting country.
For its part, despite a decline in its exports between 2000 and 2013, Egypt has regained an important position. It then relies on its Zohr deposit (850 km3).
Supply Europe and compete with Russian exports
Faced with the low demand for gas locally, both states aim to supply the European market with liquefied gas. Especially as Europe seeks to reduce its dependence on Russia. In addition, the construction of Nord Stream 2 could be jeopardized due to US sanctions.
The European Union supports instead the EastMed project which would meet 10% of its gas needs. This 2200km pipeline would carry Israeli and Cypriot gas through Greece and Italy.
Putting up a united front with American support
Egypt is also taking the opportunity to send a message to the Biden administration. It shows him that the country is essential to ensure the security of the region, even positioning itself as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Egypt has supported the Abraham Accords between Israel and the Arab countries, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. This process of normalization was carried out under the leadership of Donald Trump, then President of the United States of America, with the certain objective of strengthening its positions against Iran.
However, despite the ongoing mediation, some human rights issues may be cooling Israeli-Egyptian relations. Conversely, their relationship could be strengthened in energy matters. Not against Iran, but against Turkey.
Strengthening cooperation against Turkish ambitions
A regional alliance has been formed against Turkey in order to exclude it from gas discoveries. This is the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum set up in 2019. Since January 2020, this intergovernmental organization is based in Cairo.
It currently includes Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Italy. Better cooperation between these countries allows them to offer competitive prices on the world gas market. Discussions are also underway on EastMed despite a reluctant Egypt.
Erdogan does not look kindly on this project, which would compete with the TurkStream, which is expected to bring Russian gas to Europe from Turkey.
Facing the Turkish expansionist policy
Turkey remains dependent on its gas imports, particularly from Russia and Iran. Thanks to the energy richness of the Mediterranean sea bed, it sees an opportunity to get out of this situation. It is thus leading an aggressive policy, the Blue Homeland, aimed at exploring remote marine spaces.
It regularly encroaches into the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of other nations. The agreement reached with Fayez el-Sarraj allows him to undertake legal operations in Libyan waters.
Finally, the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea is the scene of a struggle between powers for access to gas-rich areas. The conclusion of the agreement between Israel and Egypt should shift the balance of power somewhat in their favor. This, against Russia, Turkey, and even indirectly against Iran.