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Talks with firm handling Israeli gas ‘on hold’

By Mohammad Ghazal - Jan 04,2015 - Last updated at Jan 04,2015

AMMAN — Talks between Jordan and Noble Energy to buy natural gas from Israeli fields are on hold, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said Sunday. 

At a meeting with chief editors of daily newspapers, the premier said talks are on hold until the US company settles its ongoing legal dispute with Israel. 

State-owned National Electric Power Company signed a letter of intent late 2013 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. The deal was supposed to be signed in November.  

Ensour’s remarks came a few days after Israeli Antitrust Commissioner David Gilo said he was rescinding an agreement he had reached with Noble Energy and Delek Group last March that would have allowed the two companies to retain majority stakes in Israel’s two biggest gas fields, Tamar and Leviathan, even though it would leave them controlling more than 90 per cent of the country’s gas reserves.

The announcement by the commissioner prompted Noble Energy to signal last week 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, according to Haaretz newspaper. 

“We were informed that there are differences between the American company and Israel,” Jamal Qammouh, head of the Lower House Energy Committee, told The Jordan Times Sunday. 

“The deal will not be signed until we know which party will be developing the fields from which Jordan will buy gas,” said the lawmaker. 

Several protests and activities were held over the past few months in rejection of signing the deal with Israel. 

Last year, the Arab Potash Company signed a $771 million agreement with Noble Energy under which the latter will provide the company with 66 billion cubic metres of natural gas over a period of 15 years. 

Jordan, which imports about 97 per cent of its energy needs, was forced to switch to heavy fuel and diesel for power generation after a series of disruptions leading to a complete halt in natural gas supplies from Egypt. 

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