The gas of the Levantine Sea

The Levantine basin is located in the eastern Mediterranean between Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Abundant hydrocarbon deposits have been discovered there since 2009. It is now estimated that the basin may contain up to 3500 Gm³ of recoverable natural gas. When compared to Algeria’s deposits of 4500 Gm³, it becomes clear why the region’s geopolitical situation is currently in a state of upheaval.

Who do these new resources belong to and how can they be distributed in a consensual manner among the coastal States?

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was signed in 1982 (by 162 countries) and came into effect in 1994.

The application of the convention to the case above will first test its validity then peacefully resolve potential conflicts of interest between the coastal States.

It’s easy to see why the political situation between them (the coastal States) has become very tense. For its part, Turkey – geographically very near – worries about these recent developments which threaten to reduce its importance as a “gas hub”. The country is a crossroads for many existing and planned gas pipelines. In addition, negotiations for Turkey’s membership in the European Union are being blocked by Cyprus for energy reasons. 

What is more, the misunderstanding between Israel and Lebanon over their shared border and its off-shore extension does not appear to be close to a resolution and could get worse if one of the two countries begins offshore drilling before the dispute is resolved.

Lastly, the chaos in Syria is merely making the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean worse, particularly because of a dispute over maritime space with Turkey.

It’s too early to tell if this region’s resources will influence the global geopolitics of gas, but it’s clear that the coastal States will do everything they can to get on the train in time for this new race to gas production. Now more than ever, the growing reserves of this cleanest of hydrocarbons are of a nature to improve the global energy situation. The EU should give this prospect all the attention it deserves.

Jean-Claude Charrault

Director General