Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has approved an agreement for the construction of a gas pipeline between his country and Cyprus, in a region where natural gas has become a strategic issue and a source of tension.
On September 19, 2018, the Egyptian and Cypriot governments signed an agreement in Nicosia for the construction of the first submarine pipeline carrying Cypriot natural gas to Egypt prior to its re-export to Europe. This agreement is intended to “encourage” these exports, to ensure the “security” of the transport of natural gas and “to avoid double taxation” in this trade, indicated the Official Journal. “Today’s signing marks a turning point, not only for Cyprus but for the entire Eastern Mediterranean,” said Cyprus Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis after the visit of the Egyptian Minister of Petroleum, Tarek el-Molla.
Recent discoveries of deposits in the eastern Mediterranean have resulted in a string of agreements between Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, and Israel. As a result, Egypt is no more importing liquefied natural gas since last year. Having become self-sufficient, the country intends to become a new exporting power. And it is in this perspective that Cairo has decided to import gas, in order to liquefy it in its factories in the north of the country and then send it back to Europe.
As part of this strategy, in September 2018, an agreement was signed with Cyprus for the construction of a submarine pipeline of several hundred kilometers. The pipeline is expected to transport Cypriot gas to Egypt and then reverse it after its transformation.
An agreement that raises tensions with Turkey
This agreement has raised tensions with Turkey. Ankara, which has been occupying northern Cyprus for 45 years, has a tense relationship with President al-Sisi’s Egypt. Ankara opposes any exploration and exploitation of Cypriot gas resources that excludes the northern third of the island. The European Union and the United States have called on Turkey to cease exploratory drilling projects off Cyprus (considered illegal).
It is worth saying that Egypt signed an agreement in May with a Cyprus-based company to install a 310-kilometer submarine cable between the two countries to export electricity to Europe.