JERUSALEM, June 18 (Reuters) - Israel will build a 254-kilometre (158 mile) fibre-optic cable between the Mediterranean and Red Sea, creating a continuous link between Europe and countries in the Gulf and Asia, the Finance Ministry said on Sunday.

State-owned energy group EAPC will build the cable along the route of an oil pipeline it operates across Israel from the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon to Eilat on the northern Red Sea, the ministry said in a statement.

The project, said EAPC Chief Executive Itzik Levy, "will position Israel as a communication land bridge connecting the Gulf countries and Asia to Europe."

The cable will hook up to subsea cables that reach Israel's shores. It will be available to any telecom company licensed in Israel under a 25-year lease, the ministry said.

EAPC, or the Europe Asia Pipeline Company, offers its pipeline as an alternative to the Suez Canal.

Environmental groups have long called it a hazard and questioned the company's safety record. Most notably, in 2014 a pipeline breach flooded a desert nature reserve with 5 million litres of oil.

The ministry said the fibre-optic deployment along the pipeline route will help monitor any changes in terrain and detect possible leaks.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; editing by James Mackenzie and David Evans

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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