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Israel ‘must seize cooperation opportunities with Egypt’

January 23, 2020 at 3:34 pm

A view of a natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea on 19 December 2019 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

An Israeli studies centre has said that cooperation opportunities with Egypt must be seized, especially in the energy sector and the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. A report for the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at the University of Tel Aviv said that this will strengthen Israel’s relationship with its neighbour.

In the report prepared by Ofir Winter, it is pointed out that Egypt is working to strengthen cooperation between Mediterranean countries in several fields, including energy. Israel is at the top of the list of these countries.

In its semi-periodic publication, Top View, the INSS stressed the importance of “Israel’s endeavour to develop a general Mediterranean policy that would grant it access to more opportunities to develop its relations with Egypt in the Mediterranean basin.

“Egypt became increasingly interested in the Mediterranean during recent years because of three main developments, namely the discovery of Zohr gas field, and the establishment of the gas forum, which is paving the way to make Egypt a regional energy crossroad, that aims to establish a gas market, in addition to developing the member states’ capabilities and infrastructure, as well as deepening coordination and dialogue among them.”

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The report revealed that ministers from the member states of the gas forum met on 16 January in Cairo and agreed to work on transforming the group into an inter-governmental organisation, as France has asked to be a regular member, while the US wants to be a permanent observer.

“Turkey poses a threat to the progress of regional cooperation in the field of gas, as the tension between Cairo and Ankara has increased after the agreement to demarcate the maritime borders signed by Turkey with Libya,” warned Winter.

Tel Aviv is not absent from the Mediterranean dialogue that Egypt is working to establish, he noted. “However, its place has so far remained marginal in the issues that deviate from the economic interests of the gas sector.”

In his study, the Israeli researcher summarised a set of opportunities and recommendations, saying: “Despite the conventional political reservations, the Mediterranean provides Israel with a series of new opportunities to deepen its relations with Egypt. Israel should work to settle aspects of cooperation with Egypt in the field of gas and energy by developing mutual capabilities and networks, as well as multi and bilateral coordination, in light of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, in addition to encouraging professional dialogue between the participating governmental delegations, companies and experts from both sides.”

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He explained that the invitation sent by Israel to Egypt to join it in setting up a gas pipeline to Europe is a step in the right direction because it affirms the status of the energy sector as a locus of stability and convergence in relations between the two sides.

“The Union for the Mediterranean can constitute an appropriate framework for Israel’s involvement in these regional projects. Israel should consider allocating more important financial and human resources to enhance its influence within the organisation.”