By Can Sezer
ISTANBUL, Oct 13 – Israel and Turkey agreed to deepen cooperation in the energy sector on Thursday, taking a further step towards normalising their relations during the first Israeli ministerial visit to Turkey since ties were ruptured six years ago.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said he would welcome more involvement by Turkish firms in the Israeli energy sector, particularly in gas exploration, and said “detailed dialogue” between the two governments would begin in the coming months.
After meeting in Istanbul with his Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak, President Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law, Steinitz said the two had discussed the possibility of building a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey.
“Exporting gas to our neighbours in the region or to Europe through different pipelines, this is of course very important, and of course one of the important options is connecting to Europe through a pipeline to Turkey,” he told reporters.
“We discussed other issues of energy cooperation, but this is the most vital … We are ready to engage in the specific detailed dialogue between our two governments in the next coming months,” Steinitz said.
Relations between the two regional powers crumbled after Israeli marines stormed an aid ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, killing 10 Turkish activists on board.
But they announced in June that they would normalise ties, a rare rapprochement in the divided Middle East, driven as much by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as by mutual fears over growing security risks.
At stake are reserves of natural gas worth hundreds of billions of dollars under the waters of Israel and Cyprus. To exploit them, Israel will likely require the cooperation of Turkey.
“So far we discovered approximately 900 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas. But next month, we’ll open Israeli economic water for further exploration and the scientific estimate is that the most of the natural gas is yet to be found, another 2,200 bcm,” Steinitz said.
“This is a lot of gas, much more than we can consume.”