Turkey and Israel have agreed to establish a mutual energy dialogue, further strengthening ties between the countries following a six-year pause in relations, Israeli Energy and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz said during his visit to Turkey.

After attending the 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul, which marked the first ministerial-level visit since 2010, Steinitz said that Turkey and Israel plan to enhance cooperation in the energy field. “Turkey and Israel will examine the feasibility of building a gas pipeline,” he said.

Minister Steinitz noted that his meeting with Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister marked an important moment in the normalization of relations between the two countries. “I am one of the greatest supporters for normalization of relations,” the Israeli minister said. “This is a token of the normalization process that has just started between our two states, Turkey and Israel. I came here on behalf of the Israeli government and people. I am confident that most people are eager to see peace and stability in the region and good relations and economic cooperation between Turkey and Israel.”

Steinitz stated that Israel has other options for energy but Turkey remains an important option. “Of course, we are considering also exporting natural gas to other countries like Jordan which we signed a contract with. Egypt, which also has a pipeline going through Cyprus to Greece will be considered, but the Turkish option is very significant,” he said.

According to numbers announced by the minister during a press conference, Israel has discovered approximately 900 billion cubic meters of natural gas so far. Steinitz added that his government will open up Israeli economic waters for further explorations next month. “The scientific estimate is that most of the natural gas is yet to be found, which is around another 2.2 trillion cubic meters,” Steinitz said. The energy minister expects to end up with approximately 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, which is much more than Israel can consume.

Israel is seeking ways to reach the European market, which is the biggest in terms of natural gas consumption. The idea seems to be in alignment with Europe’s interest, since supply security and diversification of sources top their agenda. Israel can also export its natural gas to Europe via Cyprus and Egypt. However, this option requires establishing liquefied natural gas facilities at a high cost. Turkey, therefore, seems the most advantageous and safest route.

“We would like to consider exporting gas both to our neighboring countries, Jordan and Egypt, or to Europe through different pipelines,”Steinitz said, adding, “one of the very important options is connecting Europe through Turkey.”

First official meeting

The Embassy of Israel in the Turkish capital Ankara released a joint statement after the press conference held by Steinitz. The embassy office underlined that this was the first official ministerial meeting between the two countries since the recent normalization of bilateral relations.

“The ministers welcomed the normalization of ties and expressed their commitment to casting substance into the relations, for the benefit of both peoples. The ministers stressed the centrality of economic cooperation in relations, and in particular, the potential of the energy sector. They discussed in detail the option of exporting natural gas from Israel to Turkey and agreed to establish a dialogue on this issue,” the statement said, adding, “Both ministers expressed their views, stressing the role of the energy sector in the stability and prosperity of the Eastern Mediterranean basin.”

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