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Israel, Egypt exclude Turkey from EastMed gas forum Open in fullscreen

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Israel, Egypt exclude Turkey from EastMed gas forum

Turkey and Lebanon were left out the meeting [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 January, 2019

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The launch of the East Mediterranean gas forum may split the region in half, analysts say, as Israel, Egypt and five other states cooperate on energy issues.
Israel and Egypt launched on Monday a regional gas forum, which included eastern Mediterranean countries but excluded Turkey and Lebanon.

Seven energy ministers, including those from Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian territories came together for a meeting in Cairo to mark the launch of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum.

Turkey and Lebanon were left out the meeting - despite both carrying out exploratory drilling in the eastern Mediterranean last year.

However, their claims to the Eastern Mediterranean waters have been challenged - Turkey's by Cyprus and Lebanon's by Israel.

The forum, which seeks to benefit its members by promoting improved commercial relations, is considered by local analyst as a move that splits the region in half.

Energy Policy Research Center President Gurkan Kumbaroglu told local Turkish media that Turkey, Northern Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria may soon work to establish a Northeastern Mediterranean body.

"Russia, which has the right to drill for gas in Syrian waters, could negotiate on behalf of Syria," he added.

On Sunday, Israel's Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz arrived in Cairo to attend the meeting in a rare visit to Egypt by an Israeli official.

"Developing gas reserves is not just financially and environmentally beneficial, but also geo-politically and diplomatically significant," Steinitz said in a statement issued by his office on Monday.

During talks between Steinitz and his Egyptian counterpart Tarek el-Molla, the pair discussed energy cooperation including plans for "exporting gas from Israel and Egypt to Europe".

Encouraged by the discovery of massive natural gas fields in the Mediterranean, Cairo has recently signed gas deals with neighbouring Israel as well as Cyprus and Greece

A further meeting in April is due to determine the body's structure, with plans in the pipeline for other countries or international organisations to join as observers.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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