One in every four liters of Israeli oil imports comes from Kazakhstan, and that volume could be increased, the country's ambassador Galym Orazbakov to Israel told The Jerusalem Post.
"Israel is importing oil from different suppliers, smartly not putting all of its eggs in one basket," said Orazbakov in an interview with the Post. "However, if Israel would like to increase the volume of oil coming from Kazakhstan, I'm certain that we would be able to meet this request."
According to the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Israel, Kazakh oil reserves amount to 32.5 billion barrels - twice as much as those to be found in the North Sea, northern Europe's primary oil reservoir. Oil output is expected to reach 100-110 billion barrels by 2015, making the country one of the world's top five producers.
Today, every fourth liter of oil in Israel comes from Kazakhstan. Over the past 25 years, Israel has imported fuel from countries such as Egypt, Angola, Norway and Russia. But given Israel's lack of diplomatic relations with the majority of oil-producing countries, it is always looking for more reliable suppliers of oil.
"Today, oil that is being imported by private companies from Kazakhstan totals, according to our data, even more than 25% of Israel's imports," Chen Bar-Yosef, managing director of the National Infrastructures Ministry's Fuel Authority told the Post. "The quality is good, and if offers are attractive and worthwhile for local private companies the volume could be increased."
This month, a special forum on strengthening bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and Israel took place at the Tel Aviv University, with participants including Orazbakov and MKs Faina Kirschenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Robert Tibayev (Kadima), among others.
"Cooperation between the two countries could only be increased in the field of energy," said Orazbakov. "As for the next level of cooperation in this field, such as the high-profile joint project the press mentioned a few times - the final decision will be made on the political level."
At the beginning of last year, Israel proposed becoming a crude oil transport bridge to the Far East. The Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company has been leading an international consortium of energy and international shipping companies seeking to channel crude oil from Jihan in southeast Turkey to eastern Asia, using its infrastructure in Israel.
The oil would be pumped in Georgia and Azerbaijan, than transferred to Turkey by pipeline. From Turkey, it would be shipped by tanker to Ashkelon and transported by pipeline to Eilat. In Eilat, the oil would be loaded onto a new set of tankers for transportation to eastern Asia and Africa. The project has aroused great interest because of the cost and time savings to East Asian oil importers, who would be able to avoid using the Suez canal.
"Since last year the talks on the project have not advanced much, and we are still before the stage of a viability study," said Bar-Yosef. "The project has great potential, but the tests are very expensive and require financing of tens of millions of dollars. The project could probably only be realized if the pipeline is used not only for oil transport but also for natural gas and electricity."
Orazbakov told the forum in Tel Aviv that "the current level of cooperation between the two countries is just a beginning ... we are interested not only in increasing the commodities circulation between the two countries, but also in more intense cooperation in the hi-tech and bio-tech spheres."
In recent months, relations between Israel and Kazakhstan have come closer, as signified by high-level bilateral visits. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Astana in October and President Shimon Peres took a historic trip to the former Soviet republic in June.
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