Athens is ‘pivotal’ due to close friendship with Israel and historic relationship with the Arab world, says Chatham House academic.

Greece’s energy co-operation with Middle Eastern countries could foster security and “coexistence” in the region, an expert has told The National.

Athens is working on a number of energy projects in the Eastern Mediterranean which would see an increased co-operation with neighbouring countries in the Arab world and Israel.

An electrical interconnector – known as Gregy – transferring 3,000 megawatts of clean energy from Egypt to Greece could become eligible for EU funding after it was placed on a list of projects of mutual interest on Wednesday.

The proposed list will need to be approved by European parliament and council, after a two-month scrutiny period.

Another electricity interconnector between Israel, Cyprus and Greece is also under way.

Dimitrios Cavouras, an academy fellow at the London-based Chatham House think tank, said the Eastern Mediterranean energy co-operation was a “prospect for peace, coexistence, co-operation and prosperity” in the Middle East.

The need for greater energy security could help countries build bridges in an otherwise hostile environment, he said.

He pointed to the Lebanon-Israel maritime border deal that was reached in 2022. “The [two countries] don’t have diplomatic ties, and they managed to agree on the exclusive economic zone,” he told The National.

Greece’s role in a regional energy co-operation was “pivotal” owing to its close friendship with Israel and historic relationship with the Arab world.

“The Arab world see Greece as a little bit different, not so European, but as a link to Europe. There’s more trust,” said Mr Cavouras.

His words were echoed by the Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis, who described the importance of “energy stability” in the region.

Speaking ahead of the EUs announcement about the Gregy interconnector, he hoped it could become a “key project” for Europe, adding they had “worked very hard for this, and will continue to work even harder.”

Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis said he would ‘exercise all powers’ to reach a ceasefire in Gaza. Reuters

The country emerged from a financial crisis in 2008, and is now growing its energy needs. It had achieved “energy sustainability” by getting half of its energy needs from renewable resources, Mr Gerapetritis said at the London School of Economics.

But it has sought greater “autonomy” in its energy supply to shield it from the European energy crises such as the one caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

A US-backed economic route from India to Greece that goes through the Middle East was another potential energy source, after it was announced at the G20 summit in Delhi earlier this year. “Now we have to revisit this, but we definitely will try to set this up,” he said.

Other opportunities for co-operation with Egypt include natural gas exploitation – an area which has put Greece at odds with Turkey. Mr Gerapetritis said the long-standing dispute with Turkey over its maritime zones had become “technical legal issue” rather than a “political” one and should be resolved through international law.

However, Greece hopes it can use its good relations fostered by its energy deals to serve as a mediator in the Israeli-Gaza war.

“For a long time, Greece has been very close to the Arabic world. And now we have a key strategic partnership with Israel. So we are I think, very reliable,” he said.

Mr Gerapetritis met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki in the West Bank last week, before meeting his Israeli counterpart.

“As we are solid with our foreign policy, we could operate as interlocutors,” he said.

He spoke about his concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, saying would “exercise his powers” to reach a ceasefire, and implement a peace process.

“We need to work for the day after, it’s imperative that we work for a permanent solution,” said Mr Gerapetritis.

He feared that the war could “spill over” into Europe, with the potential for an economic crisis, a new flow of migrants and an increase in terrorism. – by Lemma Shehadi