CAIRO: A question on why Egypt is exporting gas to Israel for favorable prices went unanswered at the People’s Assembly (PA) as government officials requested more time to prepare a response.
Member of Parliament Hamdein Sabahy posed the question to Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy who was present Sunday night to respond to parliamentary queries on the Abu Tartoor project, where drilling has begun for shale and clay oil.
Earlier press reports stated that Egypt had begun exporting gas to Israel last month under the proviso of a 2005 memorandum of understanding.
Sabahy asked the minister why Egypt was exporting discounted gas to Israel at a rate lower than the market price. House Speaker Fathi Sorour interjected saying that this issue was not on the PA’s agenda.
Sabahy responded by saying that the Petroleum Minister was to be questioned over approving the exportation deal without raising the matter in parliament.
Egyptian gas is being transported via a 100-km-long underwater pipeline from Al-Arish near the Egypt-Gaza border to the Israeli port of Ashkelon. The source of the gas is a field in Northern Sinai.
During the session, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mufid Shehab protested the manner in which the question was raised, citing that there was process through which issues are to be raised. Sabahy responded that it was merely a verbal enquiry and the government should respond.
Sorour then revealed that he had received many queries on the issue and that it was better for the government to respond to the verbal query than respond to a formal request.
“Is the government exporting Egyptian gas to Israel at a cheaper price? Sorour asked the government representatives.
Silence ensued as Shehab and Fahmy deliberated quietly, at which point Shehab got up and requested an opportunity to prepare a response with the necessary documentation.
In response to Shehab’s request, opposition and Muslim Brotherhood MPs broke into sarcastic applause. Opposition groups had been inflamed by the decision to begin exporting gas to Israel.
“The strange thing is that those who need this gas the most are the ones who are being killed in Palestine. We should be punishing them [Israel] for what they’re doing to the Palestinians but the opposite is happening, General Secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood Mahmoud Ezzat told Daily News Egypt at the time.
“We are giving them gas for favorable prices while denying it to those who need it most, he added.
According to AFP, the gas is being supplied by a Cairo-based Egyptian-Israeli consortium called East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) which includes Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem and head of Israeli multinational Merhav, Yossi Maiman.
The memorandum stipulated the provision of 1.7 billion cubic meters of gas over 15 years at a total cost of $2.5 billion. AFP also said that another gas contract worth $2 billion over 15-20 years was signed in 2006 by EMG, this time with Dorad energy of Israel.
Waheed Al Aqsari of the Arab Socialist party also voiced his opposition to the new pipeline at the time telling Daily News Egypt, “This is refused totally and we cannot accept this sort of thing, exporting gas to a country that kills Palestinians and practices extreme racism against them. This is surrender to American influence.
“Furthermore I don’t understand the timing of exportation when the agreement was in 2005, he added.
Egypt’s gas production in 2007 totaled 62 billion cubic meters, 28.8 percent of which was exported.