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Sunday, 5 September 2021

El Sisi ratifies EastMed Gas Forum

The final step to setting up the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) and its Cairo HQ was cleared on Thursday after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi ratified its founding charter, per the Official Gazette (pdf). The regional organization officially came into being in March, after its founding members signed the charter in September last year.

About the forum: Headquartered in Cairo, the forum will focus on developing collaboration policies and strategies in the sector, technical and commercial exchange, infrastructure development, and financing facilitation for project exploration. The founders will exchange information and seismic data on potential gas finds, and negotiate ownership of fields that straddle maritime borders.

Any EastMed country is allowed to join, as long as it supports the objectives of the forum. Member countries also need to either produce or consume natgas, and membership is dependent on a unanimous vote of founding members Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Palestine. The US, the EU and the World Bank are all observers, while France has joined as a member.

Private and public sector companies will also be included as members of an advisory committee. These can include international or national oil companies, as well as any company involved in the natgas production and selling process.

Focus on natgas as Cypriot prez visits Egypt: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades agreed to accelerate work on the planned pipeline connecting Cyprus’ Aphrodite natural gas field to Egypt during a joint summit yesterday, Ittihadiya said in a statement. The pipeline will allow Cyprus to export its gas to Europe via Egypt’s liquefaction facilities, and is currently expected to be operational in 2024 or 2025. The two sides also discussed defense and security ties, trade and investment, and cooperation on environmental issues.

Cyprus and Egypt set up a new committee that will work on improving bilateral relations and cooperating on regional issues. The committee yesterday affirmed that Cyprus’ sovereign water rights and maritime borders should be respected, referring to recent tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean over Turkey’s drilling for gas. El Sisi added that any dispute should be solved according to international law and maritime demarcation agreements. El-Sisi’s comments come days after he ratified Egypt’s membership in the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, in which Cyprus is also a founding member.

The two leaders are set to meet again in October and December at two planned tripartite summits with Greece, Ahram reported citing Cypriot media.

Egyptian gas could help Lebanon keep its lights on: Syria has agreed to allow Lebanon to import Egyptian natural gas through its territory, responding to a request from the country’s caretaker government which is desperately trying to secure energy supplies and ease chronic fuel shortages, Reuters reports. A delegation of Lebanese officials visited Damascus for the first time in years yesterday to make the request as their country endures one of the worst economic crises in recent history.

The plan: Syria would revive a 2009 agreement that allows Egyptian natural gas to be pumped via a pipeline running from Jordan through Syria to the north of Lebanon, according to the AP.

It’s not clear how much of an immediate solution this is to Lebanon’s problems: Egypt has not pumped gas to Syria since 2010 due to attacks and fuel shortages. The infrastructure has also been damaged during Syria’s civil war.

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