Egypt’s government not ‘partner’ in $15 bn Israeli gas deal: Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi asserted on Wednesday that the Egyptian government is not part of – or a partner in – the $15 billion deal signed between Israeli the and Egyptian companies to export Israeli gas.

The statements came at the headquarters of the Ministry of Investment, where Sisi was inaugurating the first center supporting investors in the country.

Sisi was encouraged by the controversy and reaction following the news declaration of the deal which dominated media outlets, seeing it as a mark of Egyptians’ awareness and interest in national affairs.

He added that the Egyptian government does not have anything to hide or to keep secret from the public regarding the deal, reaffirming that the deal is between private sector companies.

He further explained that it is imperative for Egypt to become a Middle Eastern regional hub for energy circulation and trade, as it possesses great infrastructure to convert liquefied natural gas (LNG) to natural gas that can be exported.

“We have logistical facilities that are not present in many other countries in the Mediterranean region,” he said. “The discovery of gas in the region is either used by individual countries or through Egypt,” he added.

Controversy and outrage had surfaced in Egypt’s political and social media arenas on Monday in the wake of reports of two 10-year agreements between Israeli and Egyptian gas companies that will allow Israel to export natural gas to Egypt in a $15 billion deal.

Many Egyptians criticized the agreements and circulated news that claims the agreement was made between the Egyptian and Israeli governments. Moreover, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inadvertantly backed the same narrative by releasing a video statement in which he praised the agreements without clarifying the nature of the deal.

According to a press release issued by Delek Drilling Group, the private Israeli conglomerate which signed the deal, two of Delek’s partners operating the two Israeli natural gas fields ‘Tama’ar’ and ‘Luthian’ have signed a 10-year $15 billion deal to export natural gas to an Egyptian private gas company known as Dolphinus.

The Delek group stated that its US-based partner, Noble Energy, will start negotiations with the East Mediterranean Gas Company, which is an owner and operator of the Arish–Ashkelon pipeline, to try and use its pipelines to transfer natural gas to Egypt.

In video footage published on Netanyahu’s Facebook page, the Israeli Prime Minister describes the deal as a “historic” agreement, saying it will bring billions of dollars to the Israeli treasury.

He added that this money will be used to develop education, health services, and welfare for the Israeli people, asserting that possession of natural gas will foster Israel’s security and regional relations. Netanyahu ended the video by saying that the day was considered a feast for Israel.