CAIRO — Egypt, Israel and the European Union on Wednesday signed an agreement to increase sales of liquefied natural gas to EU countries, which aim to reduce their dependence on supplies from Russia as the war in Ukraine drags on.
The deal, signed at a high-end hotel in Cairo, will see Israel send more gas through Egypt, which has facilities to liquefy it for export by sea, the European Commission chief said. Ursula von der Leyen.
“What a special moment,” she told a joint press conference alongside the Egyptian and Israeli energy ministers. “I warmly welcome the signing of this historic agreement.”
Von der Leyen, who visited Israel earlier this week, said the deal was part of Europe’s efforts to diversify energy sources away from Russia and import hydrocarbons from “other suppliers”. trustworthy”. She named Israel and Egypt which have become gas exporters in recent years following major offshore discoveries.
Under the agreement, the EU will help Egypt and Israel to increase their gas production and exploration in their territorial waters. How much gas the EU will import from either country was not immediately clear.
“It is known that the Russian war against Ukraine revealed our European dependence on Russian fossil fuels and we want to get rid of this dependence,” von der Leyen later told a joint press conference. with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.
Last year, the European Union imported about 40% of its gas from Russia and struggled to impose sanctions on Russia for its continued invasion of Ukraine.
Israeli Energy Minister Karin Elharrar said the deal was the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused a European energy crisis. She said it also highlights the growing cooperation between Egypt and Israel, two former enemies.
“It is a statement to those who see only negative forces such as division and conflict in our region,” Elharrar said. “This (MoU) shows us that we are forging a new path of partnership, solidarity and sustainability.”
Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek el-Molla described the agreement as “an important step” for cooperation between Egypt, Israel and the EU. He said this would lead to increased cooperation between members of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, which includes Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, France and Italy.
In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab country to make peace with Israel. But the economic deals have been controversial in the Arab world’s most populous country, where popular support for the Palestinians is high. Relations between the two countries have steadily warmed up in recent years.
Under the deal, Israeli gas will be transported by pipeline to Egypt’s LNG terminal in the Mediterranean Sea before being transported by tanker to European shores, Israel’s Energy Ministry said.
Israel has two operational gas fields off its Mediterranean coast containing around 690 billion cubic meters of natural gas combined and a third offshore platform is underway. It has already signed gas export agreements with neighboring Egypt and Jordan.
Egypt’s vast natural gas facilities in the Mediterranean have remained largely idle since the country’s 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt, with recent major discoveries, exported 8.9 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2021 and 4.7 billion cubic meters until May this year, according to Refinitiv Eikon, a global financial data provider. and market. However, most exports are destined for Asian markets.
In recent years, el-Sisi’s government has rehabilitated and modernized the facilities. In 2018, Egypt signed a $15 billion deal with Israeli company Delek Drilling and its US partner, Noble Energy, to transport natural gas to Israel. Egypt aims to create a regional energy hub, a goal von der Leyen said Wednesday’s deal will help achieve.
Meanwhile, El-Sissi and von der Leyen held talks focusing on the food crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Egypt, the most populous country in the region, has been hit hard by the war in Europe, which has shaken the global economy.
The European official said the EU would provide 100 million euros (around $105 million) for “immediate relief” to help Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, cope with the short-term food insecurity.
“This will hopefully help increase grain storage capacity and provide financing for rural businesses and farmers” in Egypt, she said.
Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed.