Several Eastern Mediterranean countries have formally established an intergovernmental organization to cooperate in developing the massive offshore natural gas fields in the region, conspicuously leaving out Turkey as a member state.

The East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) is to be based in Cairo and any East Mediterranean country can apply for membership, the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said Wednesday. Any other country, as well as any regional or international organization, can apply to join as an observer “provided that they share the same values and objectives of the EMGF,” the ministry said.

The ministry did not identify the countries that signed the agreement to formally charter the EMGF. Bloomberg reported the current member countries are Egypt, Israel, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Jordan.

“The EMGF will contribute to advancing regional stability and prosperity, creating an environment of trust, prosperity, stability and good neighborly relations through regional energy cooperation,” the Egyptian ministry added.

According to the Israeli Energy Ministry, in January 2019, Israel, Egypt, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority approved transforming the EMGF into a formally chartered regional organization.

The region has seen an explosion of gas-rich discoveries in the past few years, some of which hold liquefied natural gas export potential.

For example, earlier this month, operator Eni SpA and BP plc discovered an estimated 4 Tcf offshore Egypt. ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum Co. last year announced a discovery offshore Cypress that could hold 5-7 Tcf. Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. began flowing gas in 2019 from the Leviathan field, which has estimated resources of 22 Tcf.

San Ramon, CA-based Chevron Corp. signed a definitive agreement to buy Noble for $13 billion, but the deal apparently is facing pushback from New York City-based Elliott Management Corp., a hedge fund run by Paul Singer. 

Turkey claims that the resource maps in the Eastern Mediterranean were drawn illegally and against Turkish interests, the Washington, D.C.-based Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) non-profit group said on the website for its Fuse project. Turkey is conducting a campaign to enlarge its areas of economic interest in the hope of making its own giant natural gas discovery, SAFE said.