Mideast energy forum takes shape to promote gas exports

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz speaks during an interview with Reuters in Athens, Greece, January 2, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Seven energy ministers will sign the charter of a new Middle East energy forum that will promote natural gas exports from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe and other markets, Israeli energy officials said on Monday.

“The East Mediterranean Gas Forum, which until now has been a stage for discussions only, is in fact becoming a real international organization,” said Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.

Ministers from Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Italy will finalize the group’s charter on Tuesday in a virtual ceremony and work to create a “joint vision” for the region, according to a senior Israeli energy ministry official.

“The forum will help bring a welcome normalization of regional relations, one that will help promote and develop the gas sector in Israel, and of course natural gas exports from Israel to its neighbors, to Europe and other regions,” said the official.

Other countries, including France and the United States, may join the forum as well.

Large gas deposits have been discovered in Israeli, Egyptian and Cypriot waters in recent years. Israel has already begun exporting to Jordan and Egypt, which hopes to become a regional energy hub.

Egypt has two liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants that have been idled or running at less than their potential capacity and can be used for exports.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; editing by David Evans