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Confusion prevails over gas deal with Israel

By Raed Omari - Feb 16,2016 - Last updated at Feb 16,2016

AMMAN — The government on Tuesday left it unclear whether it has annulled the deal with Noble Energy to buy natural gas from Israel.

During Tuesday's Lower House oversight session, Minister of Energy Ibrahim Saif said that no deal has been reached yet with Noble Energy to buy natural gas from Israel, adding that it is still reviewing the memo the two sides signed in light of developments in the energy market. 

Responding to MPs' calls on the government to shy away from importing the Israeli gas, Saif added that the letter of intent the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) signed with Noble Energy in September 2014 set no deadlines for negotiations on technical and financial matters.

The minister also said that the transformations in the international energy market have made it obligatory to revisit the deal with Noble Energy, stressing the government’s determination to diversify power providers in light of the “abundant energy alternatives”.

“All options and alternatives are on the table. Importing natural gas through Noble Energy is just one of them,” he said.

Citing the frequent Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, many MPs called on the government to cancel the deal with Noble Energy. Some of them threatened a motion of no confidence in the government if it goes ahead with the deal. 

State-owned NEPCO signed a letter of intent with Noble Energy, which owns 39 per cent of the Leviathan natural gas field in Israel, to buy gas over a period of 15 years and at a total cost of $15 billion starting late 2017. 

Earlier in 2015, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour announced that talks were put on hold “until the US company settles its ongoing legal dispute with Israel”.

The development was announced against the backdrop of a decision by Israeli anti-trust commissioner David Gilo, who announced that he was rescinding an agreement reached with Noble Energy and Delek Group in March that would have allowed the two companies to retain majority stakes in Israel’s two biggest gas fields, Tamar and Leviathan.

Consequently, Noble Energy signalled that it was suspending further development of the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields until Israel makes a final decision on resolving the natural gas monopoly and other regulatory matters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted in news reports as saying that Jordan has decided to cancel the gas agreement it signed with Israel.

Israeli website Ynetnews.com quoted Netanyahu as saying on Friday: “We had an agreement with the Kingdom of Jordan to sign a contract on the supply of Israeli gas and everything was ready, and then the surprising decision came to cancel the agreement.”

 

“This was an important security, geopolitical and economic contract. Had this contract been signed a year ago, it would have helped the economic stability of Jordan, which is facing the significant and difficult challenge of hundreds of thousands of refugees. It strengthens our relations of peace, relations that are very important to the State of Israel.”

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