Turkey-Israel gas exploration stymied by political standoff, writes Forbes

Turkey-Israel gas exploration stymied by political standoff, writes Forbes
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Erdogan's Pro-Hamas stance undermines joint energy projects in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In a critical development in Middle Eastern geopolitics, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent pro-Hamas stance has significantly jeopardized the potential for joint natural gas exploration between Turkey and Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean. This assessment was detailed in an article by Daniel Markind, a renowned energy sector attorney and contributor to Forbes, published on November 1, 2023.

Erdogan's vocal support for Hamas during its military conflict with Israel has effectively halted prospects for collaborative ventures in exploring and constructing natural gas pipelines in the region. This disruption is poised to impact Turkey more severely than Israel. Israel, on its part, has successfully negotiated deals with the European Union, Lebanon, and other countries to develop natural gas resources and construct pipelines towards Europe. These agreements are part of a broader strategy to reduce dependence on Russian gas supplies, which have been uncertain due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

The situation escalated when Erdogan publicly denied Hamas' terrorist designation and accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza. He even hinted at a potential Turkish military intervention in Gaza. These statements were met with skepticism, considering Turkey's internal challenges and its membership in NATO. Israel, though not a NATO member, maintains close relations with the alliance, making any unwarranted aggression by Turkey likely unwelcome by other NATO nations.

Turkey's stance has not only jeopardized its energy cooperation with Israel but also cast a shadow on Erdogan's leadership. His approach has led to a breakdown in potential energy partnerships with Israel, which will likely reengage in discussions with Greece and Cyprus about the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline, potentially excluding Turkey.

The article underlines the significant role of the Middle East as an alternative energy source for Europe, especially in light of the current energy market volatility and Russian supply uncertainties. Israel, holding substantial natural gas reserves estimated at 750 billion cubic meters, is moving forward with its natural gas projects. It has recently awarded 12 licenses for offshore natural gas exploration to six companies, including Eni of Italy and potentially BP.

In conclusion, the article emphasizes the strategic importance of natural gas for Israel's economic stability, particularly against the backdrop of conflicts with Hamas and potentially Hezbollah. It portrays how political decisions and geopolitical alignments can profoundly influence regional economic opportunities and energy security, with Turkey potentially missing out on a crucial economic opportunity due to Erdogan's recent foreign policy decisions.