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Israel aims to expand gas exports

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-03-14 09:26
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni attend a news conference after their meeting at Palazzo Chigi, in Rome, Italy, March 10, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu have agreed to strengthen collaboration between their countries on energy supplies and in other key sectors.

Netanyahu spent three days in Rome, meeting political and business leaders, in a bid to forge deeper ties.

Rome has sought to decrease its reliance on Moscow for energy supplies since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February last year.

"We have gas reserves that we are now exporting and we'd like to expedite more gas exports to Europe through Italy," Netanyahu said after meeting Meloni on Friday.

The Euronews website noted that Israel began exporting gas after discovering several reservoirs off its coast in the early 2010s. But the country does not have a gas pipeline to link its drilling platforms in the Mediterranean Sea to southern Europe.

An underwater pipeline, under construction, will connect Israel's offshore gas fields with southern Europe through Cyprus and Greece. This is expected to be ready for use sometime between 2025 and 2027.

Reuters news agency noted that in November, Israel signed an agreement with Italian energy company ENI and French producer TotalEnergies that lets the two companies begin exploring for natural gas within a landmark maritime border deal with Lebanon.

Speaking at a business forum at the weekend, Netanyahu told Italian Enterprise Minister Adolfo Urso there was scope for deeper collaboration between the two nations.

"We are already cooperating in gas with your national company (energy giant ENI) but we want to expand.

"I think this (gas) is a strategic need of Italy and Europe, and Israel is prepared to do more with you for that end," said Netanyahu. "We think we can carry it to a much higher level," he added.

Italy is seeking to become a major transporter of gas from North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Italian government has said it wants the country to be a hub for the supply of energy for Europe, and Urso welcomed Netanyahu's comments.

"Italy aims to become the European gas hub and Israel must be the point of strength for gas production," he said.

Netanyahu said collaboration on cybersecurity and cooperation on water resources were also agreed. "We are happy to share our ability to produce water," he said.

Netanyahu said that Italian and Israeli ministers would meet in Israel in the coming months for bilateral talks.

" (We) will address perhaps a dozen areas of mutual cooperation to the benefit of Italy and Israel alike," he said.

Reuters noted that in his statement, Netanyahu did not mention the mass protests taking place in his country over a contested judicial reform. According to protesters, the new law could weaken the Israeli Supreme Court.

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