Egyptian officials defend natural gas deal with Israel
(dpa) - Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company defended an Egyptian-Israeli natural gas treaty that stipulates the country will supply Israel with 1.7 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually for 15 years, media reports said Saturday.
On February 22, Egypt started pumping natural gas to Israel through submarine pumps that extend from the northern Egyptian city of Arish to the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
While the government defends the move, Egypt's political opposition condemns the activation of the treaty with Israel amid the ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.
"Exporting natural gas to Israel is still under trial. It will be around 150 million cubic feet at this stage, which is only 2.5 per cent of Egypt's 6.3 billion cubic feet daily production of natural gas," the head of Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company, Mahmoud Latif, told reporters on Monday.
He stressed that the sale of natural gas to Israel was in Egypt's best economic interests.
"The treaty will achieve profits for Egypt, as the price of natural gas being exported to Israel exceeds its production costs," Latif said.
Sherif Ismail, head of the governmental Ganoub al-Wadi Petroleum Holding Company, said the natural gas treaties are revisable, stressing that prices of the Egypt's natural gas exports can be changed.
"There are no treaties with fixed prices. Prices in export treaties are never announced and are usually secretly modified," Ismail was quoted as saying in the independent al-Hayat newspaper.
In July 2005, Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy and Israeli Minister of Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer signed in Cairo the 15-year-treaty, which was activated in October 2006.
The treaty has been implemented by the Cairo-based East Mediterranean Gas, a private energy consumption company with joint Egyptian-Israeli ownership.
The agreement encapsulates an option that assures the possibility of extending the treaty a further five years.
Egypt's storage of natural gas has increased to reach 72.3 trillion cubic feet after adding 6.2 trillion cubic feet last year and improving the natural gas fields across the country. It is expected that the amount of natural gas in Egypt would reach 75 trillion cubic feet by the end of the current year.