Israel started exporting natural gas to southern neighbor Egypt on Wednesday, the energy ministers of both countries said.In a joint statement, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and his Egyptian counterpart, Minister of Petroleum Tarek El-Molla, said the "important development" would serve the "economic interests of the two sides." Exports follow a $15 billion decade-long deal signed by Delek Drilling and Houston-based Noble Energy in February 2018 to supply 64 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas to Egypt from the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields, located off Israel.Gas will initially flow from Leviathan, one of the largest natural-gas fields discovered worldwide in the last decade, which commenced full operations on January 6. Gas will be supplied to Egypt's Dolphinus Holdings out via the 90 km. subsea EMG Pipeline, connecting the southern Israel city of Ashkelon to the Egyptian network near El-Arish."Today marks a new era in the Middle East energy sector," said Delek Drilling CEO Yossi Abu. "We are proud and honored to be a part of these historic times."The flow of natural gas to Egypt will serve both the domestic market and also enable exports of gas to Europe and other destinations, via liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals located in Egypt. LNG exports from Egypt more than doubled in 2019 to 4.8 bcm of natural gas equivalent, according to data published by S&P Global Platts Analytics on Tuesday. In a letter sent to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin hailed a "day to celebrate in the history of the relations" between Israel and Egypt."As I write to you, natural gas has begun flowing from the Israeli Leviathan gas field to Egypt, linking our two countries and our two peoples. The flow of gas brings with benefits to our economies and deepens the connection between Egypt and Israel after over 40 years of peaceful relations," wrote Rivlin."Mr. President, the State of Israel sees our relationship with the Arab Republic of Egypt as a strategic asset. It is a vital component of regional stability and an example of what is possible in future relations across the Middle East. Our political and security cooperation are already strong foundations that bring stability and security to both our peoples, and I believe that we can widen our cooperation to additional civilian fields."Exports of natural gas to Egypt received final approval from the Energy Ministry in December, following authorization from the Antitrust Authority and a recommendation from the Committee for the Reduction of Concentration. The ministry's approval provides for total sales of 60 bcm of natural gas from Leviathan and 25 bcm from Tamar over the next 15 years.Later on Wednesday, Steinitz and El-Molla participated in the third ministerial-level meeting of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) in Cairo, together with energy ministers from Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The ministers were expected to finalize and sign a joint charter at the meeting, seeking to turn the forum into a formal regional organization.