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Turkey seeks to preempt potential Israeli gas bonanza

October 27, 2011

Last year, the USGS assessed the potential energy bounty of billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily around Israel.    Since its inception, Israel has had the misfortune of being one of the very few Middle Eastern nations without massive energy reserves.  This discovery would change the character of Israel both economically and strategically.  Not only would there be enough oil and gas to power the nation, but the potential to export resources to energy hungry Europe would not only bring in foreign revenues, but also fundamentally change a number of dependency relationships.

However, Israeli-Turkish relations have been on the decline (since before this discovery, but more rapidly since then).  Now, Turkey has taken things a step further, announcing that Turkey would block any Israeli access to European markets via the pipeline network that transits Turkey:

Turkey will not permit the transit of natural gas produced in Israel, linking the rejection to the present state of relations between the two nations.  Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Turkey has turned down requests private firms to allow the transit of natural gas produced in Israel through Turkey to Europe.

Turkish-Israeli relations have been tense since the attack on a Gaza-bound flotilla on May 30, 2010 that killed nine Turkish nationals.  In very blunt terms, Yildiz stated: “Had not nine of our nationals been murdered, there could be major developments in the energy distribution in the Mediterranean Sea. [Then] we would not have rejected the demand by private firms,” he said on Friday.

The Minister’s comments also reflect adverserial positions on the contested drilling by Cyprus in the Levant Basin of Mediterranean Sea.

The flotilla deaths are a cover, IMO, for a hard nosed geopolitical calculation.  Turkey seeks to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean militarily and economically.  It needs to weaken Israel in both realms, and as an aside, probably has its own designs on the energy resources.

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