‘New era of peace and prosperity’: Egyptian minister visits Jerusalem for talks on joint energy ventures

“There is a new era of peace and prosperity for the region with the Abraham Accords,” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting. 

By Aryeh Savir, TPS and World Israel News Staff

In a rare visit to Jerusalem on Sunday, Egyptian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Tarek El Molla discussed joint energy projects with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.

“This is an important day, marking our continued cooperation on energy and so many other things,” Netanyahu stated at the start of the meeting.

“There is a new era of peace and prosperity for the region with the Abraham Accords. This began of course with the historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel but now it is becoming something that can better the lives of all the people in economic terms and we think that this is a great opportunity for regional cooperation – Egypt, Israel and the other countries.

“We are an energy hub. Together we can supply not only our own needs, but the needs of many other countries.  So, it is in this spirit of friendship and cooperation and peace and prosperity that I welcome you to Israel,” he said.

“Thank you for receiving us and for the invitation,” the Egyptian minister responded. “Together with Minister Steinitz, we started together a few years back the expansion of the cooperation in energy which was enhanced by the foundation of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. I am looking forward to our discussions. Thank you once again for receiving us.”

Also participating in the meeting were National Security Council head Meir Ben Shabbat, Energy Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz, Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company Chairman Magdy Galal, Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Amira Oron and Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Khaled Azmi.

El Molla and Steinitz agreed to work on an intergovernmental agreement to run gas from Israel’s Leviathan gas field to the Liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in Egypt.

El Molla’s visit to Jerusalem, Steinitz said, was of historic importance given that the establishment of the regional gas forum and the export of natural gas to Egypt symbolize the most significant economic cooperation between Egypt and Israel since the peace agreements were signed almost 42 years ago.

Against the background of increased cooperation in the field of energy and the establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), established by Steinitz and El Molla, the ministers expressed their support for building a strong and well-connected energy infrastructure throughout the Eastern Mediterranean to optimize the potential of natural gas reserves in the region.

The ministers also referred to the importance of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, as well as the global climate targets, including the reduction of emissions by 2050 and other environmental targets.

The discussion included various opportunities for increasing energy independence for the Palestinian Authority, including through projects such as the development of the maritime field in Gaza, the construction of the Jenin power plant, and the supply of natural gas to the PA.

It was “acknowledged that strong energy cooperation between the two countries contributes to energy security and energy diversification, while further strengthening the ongoing regional dialogue through the EMGF, regarding the development of the regional gas market while exploiting the full potential of gas resources in the region, and setting the platform for a multifaceted and complete trade center in the region” Israel’s Ministry of Energy stated.

Italy, Greece, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, and the Palestinian Authority are members of the EMGF.

Some 35 trillion cubic feet of gas have been found in Israeli waters, worth some $500 billion.

These crucial discoveries are enabling Israel to become energy independent and have also turned Israel into a major player in the international energy-exporting market.

The Israeli government is expected to earn 17 billion shekels in royalties from the gas discoveries. Additionally, the windfall profits levy is expected to reach up to 10 billion a year by 2040.

The Israeli government approved in December 2019 the export of a total of 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas from the Leviathan gas field, and 25 bcm from Tamar, over the next 15 years.

The expected amount of exported natural gas is valued at approximately $15 billion.

Israel began pumping gas to Egypt in January 2020.