Egypt MP requests petroleum minister be summoned to explain reports of gas deal with Israel

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 20 Feb 2018

File photo: Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek el-Molla (Photo: AFP)

Egyptian leftist MP Abdel-Hamid Kamal, who represents the governorate of Suez, has submitted an urgent information request on Tuesday asking that Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla be summoned to parliament as soon as possible to explain to MPs reports that Israel has signed two agreements to sell gas to Egypt.

Kamal's request, submitted to parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, said, "Importing natural gas from Israel would be in violation of Article 139 of the constitution, which states that the main job of the president of the republic is to preserve the people's interests and maintain the independence of the state and the integrity and safety of its land."

"Any gas deal with Israel goes against this article, as Israel is still an enemy of Egypt in practical and de facto terms," argued Kamal, who is affiliated with the leftist Tagammu Party.

Kamal told Ahram Online that "gas deals with Israel pose a big threat to Egypt's internal security and national economy… It gives Israel, an enemy to Egypt, a hand to manipulate Egypt's economy, as dependence on gas imports from the Jewish state for a long period of time will surely be very risky," said Kamal.

In his request, Kamal said, “I and other MPs were surprised yesterday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing that two Israeli companies –Tamar and Leviathan – have signed a deal with the Egyptian private company Dolphinus to sell gas to Egypt worth $15 billion.”

"The two Israeli companies will export as much as 64 billion cubic metres of natural gas to Egypt for 10 years," said Kamal, wondering how this can be the case given that Egypt celebrated last month the launch of the giant Mediterranean gas field Zohr.

"Petroleum ministry officials said during the launch that not only will this field help Egypt meet its local natural gas needs, but also will make the country a major exporter in future years," said Kamal.

“The deal also raises questions about the private Egyptian company Dolphinus: who are [the company’s] owners? Does it have foreign partners, and how were they able to sign a 10-year deal that will do a lot of harm to the Egyptian economy and delay the liquification of Egyptian gas?”

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Twitter yesterday that he welcomes the historic gas export agreement.

"This will put billions into the state treasury to benefit education, health and social welfare of Israel's citizens,” Netanyahu said.

The deal triggered wide-scale reactions in Egypt's economic and political circles yesterday, and was a hot issue on most private TV talk shows on Monday night.

In response, the Egyptian Natural Gas Regulatory Authority said it is not aware of the signing of such an agreement.

Authority chairman Karem Mahmoud told Al-Ahram Arabic news website that companies have the right to sign agreements to import or export gas, but such agreements must be presented to the authority for approval.

The authority has said in a statement that “there is no certainty” that the deal will go through given that the legal conditions for such an agreement have not been met yet."

Egypt passed a new natural gas law last year that allows for competition in the market by granting licenses to import gas for private companies.

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