'Natural gas exports will 1st go to Arab neighbors'

Landau says gas can be means to improve regional ties; Israel, Greece sign agreement for cooperation on environmental issues.

Landau with Greek counterpart 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Energy and Water Ministry)
Landau with Greek counterpart 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Energy and Water Ministry)
By exporting portions of its natural gas to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, Israel could help bridge relations on a broader level with its neighbors, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau said on Wednesday.
“Naturally, the immediate export of natural gas will be to our neighbors the Palestinians and the Jordanians, and I believe that this connection will be an important step in building trust and peace in the region,” Landau said, according to his office.
The minister was speaking at The Economist magazine’s “Investment Energy Summit – Greece, Cyprus, Israel: Redesigning the European Energy Map” event, held in Athens on Wednesday and Thursday, in cooperation with Greece’s Environment, Energy and Climate Change Ministry; Cyprus’s Commerce, Industry and Tourism Ministry; the Greek-Israeli Chamber of Commerce & Technology; and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Addressing participants during the conference’s opening session, Landau joined the energy and environment ministers of both Greece and Cyprus. The three ministers later took part in an open discussion about global challenges and the specific problems that the countries in this region share, the ministry said.
For Israel in particular, there will be specific challenges as the economy strives to cope with an entirely new, and extensive, addition to the market, according to Landau.
“The energy market is expected to transfer to the most extensive use of natural gas, opening the use of natural gas and its products, such as methanol for transportation,” he said.
But the regional natural gas developments will not just be remarkable for Israel’s energy security status – it will also be crucial to that of its neighbors, and the relationships among the countries.
“We believe with deep conviction that this important development in the Middle East will lead to a better future for our countries, as well as for that of our neighbors,” Landau said.
“We are confident that in the Middle East, which at the moment is in chaos, this partnership between Greece, Israel and Cyprus will create a basis of stability that is very important for the region.”
Along these lines, Landau wished success to Cyprus and Greece in their natural gas explorations, which are slated to begin next month. “Your success is the success of the region,” he said.
As a testament to the increasingly high level of cooperation among these three countries, Israel’s ambassador to Greece, Aryeh Mekel, told Landau that six Israeli ministers have visited Greece in the past year to create various partnerships, while 12 Greek ministers have visited Israel, the ministry reported.
Later during the day, Landau signed a agreement with Greek Environment, Energy and Climate Minister George Papaconstantinou for cooperation between their two countries in the field of environmental protection.
The agreement calls for exchanging knowledge and sharing expertise, with particular emphasis on issues of water management, sewage treatment and reuse, desalination, bio-gas and biomass production, energy efficiency and other elements.
The ministerial meetings occurring in Athens indicate a tightening of relations between the three countries, particularly on issues of energy and environmental importance, many of which have arisen from their mutual natural gas discoveries, according to the ministry. Earlier this month, Landau and officials from the other two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of an electric cable from Israel to Cyprus to Greece, which will allow for redundancy, reciprocal backup, security and long-term domestic energy for all the parties involved, the ministry said.