The United States’ past support for a pipeline opposed by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea was a mistake, said the prime minister of the Turkish Northern Republic of Cyprus, the pro-government Daily Sabah reported on Sunday.
Faiz Sucuoğlu, the TRNC Prime Minister, described Washington’s backing of the EastMed pipeline as “folly” and ridiculed the project itself as an act of hostility against the TRNC and Turkey, which opposes the pipeline.
“It [EastMed pipeline] was aiming to bypass Turkey and the TRNC. In short, it was hostility. Since it is not a project with economic sustainability, big states that tend to support it have withdrawn this support,” Sucuoğlu told state-run Anadolu agency in an interview.
On January 11, the U.S State Department reportedly informed Greece that it would be withdrawing its support for the EastMed pipeline. According to unnamed sources who spoke to Greek daily Ekathmerini, the U.S side expressed reservations about the environmental implications of the project and its financial viability. It instead conveyed its continued support for electricity grids that connect the states in the region, such as the one operated by Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
“We remain committed to physically interconnecting East Med energy to Europe. We are shifting our focus to electricity interconnectors that can support both gas and renewable energy sources,” the State Department said in a statement to EURACTIV.
The EastMed pipeline is being pursued by Israel, Greece and Cyprus as a way to make greater use of the rich natural gas reserves that are present in the region. Previously, the Trump administration was a supporter of the pipeline, voicing vocal support for the project and others like it up to its final days in office.
After the decision was revealed, the decision by the Biden administration was viewed by some commentators as an indirect concession to Turkey, which opposed the pipeline as a means to exclude it from the region’s energy wealth. Turkish officials for their part expressed satisfaction, claiming that they felt the U.S support for EastMed was never as fulsome as hoped for by its proponents.
However, others noted that the EastMed was already on shaking ground even before the U.S withdrew its backing.
In an editorial after the decision was revealed, the Cyprus Mail called the U.S move a “deathblow” for the pipeline, but said that officials in the countries involved with the project were already pursuing alternative energy projects that called into question their commitment to EastMed. Last October, European officials also cited climate and environmental concerns about the project, which they said was “not compatible” with the “long-term decarbonisation objective”.
Charles Ellinas, the CEO at EC Cyprus Natural Hydrocarbons Company Ltd, who is also a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, panned the criticism of Washington’s decision as ignoring the real difficulties surrounding the project for its architects.
“The market made its decision a long-time ago. The international oil companies operating in the East Med…that would benefit from the pipeline’s construction, never supported it. Why; Because it is not financially viable,” wrote Ellinas.