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Turkey is still interested in transporting Israeli gas to Europe, Erdogan says

AT SEA - AUGUST 21: Fatih Drill ship is seen at sea after the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the discovery of major natural gas reserves in the Black Sea, Turkey on August 21, 2020. 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserve is found by Fatih drill ship on July 20 off Black Sea coast, Turkey aims to serve natural gas discovered off Black Sea for public use in 2023, says president. ( Celal Güneş - Anadolu Agency )
Fatih Drill ship is seen at sea after the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the discovery of major natural gas reserves in the Black Sea, Turkey on August 21, 2020 [Celal Güneş - Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said that he is still interested in transporting Israeli natural gas to Europe through Turkey, as Ankara's relations with Tel Aviv continue to improve.

According to a transcript released by the Turkish Presidency yesterday, Erdogan told journalists that "If [Israeli gas] would be brought to Europe, it could only be done through Turkey". He added that his country and Israel "can sit and talk about the conditions."

Erdogan's comments come after the United States this week withdrew its support for the EastMed pipeline project, the agreement to transport Israeli gas along a 1,900-kilometre-long pipeline through Cyprus to supply Europe with energy, in a bid to reduce the continent's dependence on Russian gas.

The US abandoned the agreement due to its costliness, the need to move towards renewable energy sources, and the potential regional instability that the project would have resulted in – particularly following Turkey's dissatisfaction and outrage at the plans to bypass it.

READ: Erdogan tells visiting rabbis Turkey's ties with Israel 'will always be strong'

In his comments, Erdogan said that he was not surprised that the US withdrew its support from the EastMed pipeline as it would have been very costly. He also mentioned the positive engagements between Turkey and Israel in recent months, saying that "We speak to Israeli President [Isaac] Herzog. Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, also is [communicating] with us at different levels."

The Turkish President defended his efforts to improve relations with Tel Aviv, stating that "If we are policy making, this cannot be with [a] fight or quarrel. We have to maintain the policy within the line of peace."

Turkey and Israel had previously planned to cooperate in transporting gas to Europe back in 2016, in an effort to reconcile relations. Those negotiations collapsed following Israel's transgressive actions in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which resulted in condemnation by Turkey and the breaking-off of relations.

READ: Will Turkish efforts to hold Israel to account for its crimes bear fruit?

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