The national interest of the countries of the region will determine the decisions for projects like the EastMed, Israeli Ambassador to Greece Yossi Amrani said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on the sidelines on the 7th Delphi Economic Forum, explaining that the question of energy was now more crucial, due to the war in Ukraine, and we must immediately ensure that energy needs are met.
“Now the question of energy is more crucial because of the war in Ukraine. And there is much more attention and much more talk. This does not get us any closer to any decision or any specific project. What we have is regional reservoirs and a need in Europe for energy and a political or strategic need for diversity. We need to make sure that what we can offer, what is needed in Europe, finds its way to the markets,” he underlined.
“How this will be done is open for discussion. And this is what we are engaged in now,” he noted, while underlining that, “what I am advising all of us is not to spend another 12 years [talking], like we spent over the EastMed.”
Regarding the EastMed, he repeated what he had said in a discussion at the Delphi Forum, that the main factor in these decisions will be the national interests of the countries involved and that these countries “will make, through their own direct communication, bilaterally and trilaterally and beyond, the right decision to serve their national interest.”
“EastMed is a name, EastMed is a concept. Whether EastMed will go from point A to point B and from point B to point C or it will go from point A to point D and from point D to point C is something for the private sector, the financial sector and the governments to decide,” the ambassador added.
Ιn reply to criticism that pipelines are time-consuming and costly projects, the ambassador said that nothing should be ruled out and that, ultimately, this will be decided by national interests and how to best serve the interests of energy diversity in Europe.
The Israeli Ambassador noted that he had heard different opinions, including from some experts – noting that “there are certain experts in Greece that I trust [in terms of] their knowhow and insight” – to the effect that “even if we are committed fully to green energy and renewable sources, there will always be a need for gas to fill in energy needs. I will not rule out certain energy resources just because of a certain political climate. Now Europe is facing an energy shortage or certain concern of an energy shortage and what you see is that some countries go back to coal. Gas is much cleaner than coal. So let’s not rule out anything and make sure that our energy independence and our energy survival is being safeguarded through different means.”
The full interview to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency and Sofia Papadopoulou follows:
Huge potential bilateral relations
Regarding relations between Israel and Greece, he said that there were tangible results in sectors such as real estate and tourism, but also huge potential for further developing them.
“I see tangible results. I would not underestimate what we have,” he said, stressing the close and dynamic exchanges, the intensive summits and meetings, the ‘chemistry’ between leaders, the openness and “the very fact that we think together about the region, not just about ourselves, but about the region and how the region can be safer, more stable, more prosperous and how we can contribute to that” as a proof of the progress made.
“Not everything is done by just a decision. It takes time but we made progress and I am very happy with this progress. I am not saying we reached the limit. We are far from the limit but there are tangible results. And there is a huge potential. The potential itself is a result which was not there 10 or 20 years ago,” said Amrani, who recently had some meetings with government officials and identified certain areas of future cooperation, beyond that in real estate and tourism that already exists.
“I think the number one topic should be energy and infrastructure cooperation. Two should be food security – lessons of the Ukranian war – so that we have enough oil, enough wheat …. Also defence cooperation and hi-tech. I think there is room for more cooperation. I think we should not settle for tourism and real estate and say how great it is. We need to invest more on R&D, which leads to tangible economic business partnerships,” the ambassador said.
To exclude the threat of war is ‘naive’
Asked if he had expected a war to break out in the heart of Europe in the 21st century, he said: “It’s regrettable, our hearts go out to the suffering of innocent people, to the suffering of the Ukranian people.” He also expressed hope that there will soon be an end of the war.
However, he underlined that “excluding the threat of war, excluding the use of force or military power to achieve political goals is naive.” Therefore, he added, “it’s important for countries as part of their national strategies to develop their military capabilities, at least for self-defence.”
“Wars are part of our civilisation’s history. Having 70-plus years of relatively peace in Europe does not mean that wars have been excluded as a political means,” he noted. While Europe had been saved from wars, especially after the terrible war of WWII, wars were still taking place elsewhere, the ambassador said. “Other regions of the world are not less relevant than Europe. There were wars in the Middle East, there were wars in Africa, there were wars in Asia,” he pointed out.
Russia cannot be ‘put in the corner’ after the war
Asked whether the end of the war will find Russia isolated and bring about a new version of the ‘Cold War’, Amrani replied:
“It’s too [early] to draw conclusions and describe how the world is going to look after the end of the war in Ukraine,” pointing out that “the dust has not settled yet and the war is not over.”
He underlined that there was no need to turn Russia into a “constant, permanent enemy of the West”.
“Russia is an important country in the world, a country with tradition, history and relevance to world affairs. Once the war is over, once there is a political agreement to the crisis, alienating one country or bringing one country to its knees is a mistake,” he said and added:
“There is an international community and within the international community for our own sake we need to keep balance and Russia should be part of world balance. It cannot be put in the corner, it should not be ignored and it should not be written off.”
Whoever can help negotiations is more than welcome
Commenting on Turkey’s mediating role in Ukraine-Russia negotiations, Amrani underlined that as an Israeli, he believes in direct negotiations, and that whoever can help bring the two warring sides closer is “more than welcome”.
“I believe parties and countries involved in any conflict should negotiate directly with one another… There is, [however,] a role for mediators. Israel played a role at the beginning, Turkey now plays a role. If the parties are happy with this mediation I don’t see any concern or any problem. Whoever can help in bringing the two fighting, confronting parties, Russia and Ukraine, [to] the negotiating table and resolve their differences is more than welcome,” he said.