A very interesting article from Today’s Zaman, which is the English edition of Zaman, one of the largest Turkish newspapers. Zaman is close to Fetulah Gulen, a moderate Islamist and ex-ally of the current Turkish President Tayip Erdogan. Gulen is currently self-exiled in the United States.
According to the Zaman it is very difficult for the Israelis and the Turks to normalize their relations, in order to cooperate in the natural gas sector, because the Israelis need the Russians in order to bomb in Syria Iran’s arm deliveries to Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. If the Israelis cooperate with the Turks, the Russians will attack the Israeli planes which violate the Syrian airspace, and might also encourage Hezbollah to attack Israel.
According to the Zaman the Israeli officials believe that the Turks do not really want to normalize their relations with the Israelis, and they only care about the natural gas of Israel, in order to find a substitute for the Russian gas. The Turks import from Russia 30 out of the 50 billion cubic meters of gas they consume each year.
The Zaman says that the Israeli officials believe that a cooperation between Israel and Turkey in the natural gas sector could have been possible before the downing of the Russian aircraft by Turkey, in November 2015, but after that incident cooperation between Israel and Turkey became very difficult if not impossible.
What the Israelis mean is that before the downing of the Russian aircraft by Turkey, when Turkey and Russia had a working relationship, there was a chance for Israel and Turkey to cooperate in the natural gas sector with Russia’s blessings, because the Israelis had given Gazprom a share in Tamar field, and were discussing the possibility of giving Gazprom a large share in Leviathan too.
I think that Russia would not agree even before the downing of the Russian aircraft to the Turkish-Israeli cooperation, because the Russians were interested in the Israeli gas only to export it to Egypt. That is of course before the Zohr field was discovered in Egypt. I do not think that the Israelis are right when they say that Russia might have been interested even before the incident.Russia already exports to Turkey. I also believe that the Israelis need Russia’s help more than they need the help of Turkey. The problem is that the United States, the major Israeli ally, is on Turkeys’ side at the Russian-Turkish confrontation.
The Turks could of course try to work things out with the Egyptian socialists of General Sisi, and import the Egyptian gas through Cyprus, thus avoiding the Israeli gas, if the 40 year dispute between Turkey and Cyprus is finally resolved. However it wouldn’t be easy for Cyprus to send to Turkey either the Israeli or the Egyptian gas, because Russia, which is a major ally of Cyprus, would be very dissatisfied. But if the Turks were to accept some of the Cypriot demands in their long dispute Cyprus could be tempted.
Could the Egyptian socialists make peace with the Turkish islamists and send them their gas through Cyprus, if the Turkish occupation of Cyprus is finally resovled? After the discovery of the Zohr, if the Egyptians want to export to Turkey, and if the Turks want to import from Egypt, they would have to try to normalize their relations. Given of course that Turkey promises to stop supporting the Egyptian Islamists who attack the Egyptian socialists from Gaza and Libya.
For the article see:
“Turkish-Israeli normalization may not go beyond rhetoric” December 2015