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December 18, 2014 5:30 pm

Energy Deals Can Alleviate Middle East Tensions, Says State Department Envoy

avatar by Ben Cohen

Natural gas from Israel's Tamar field began flowing to customers in 2013. Photo: Screenshot / Youtube.

Natural gas from Israel's Tamar field began flowing to customers in 2013. Photo: Screenshot / Youtube.

A State Department Envoy has said that energy ties between Israel and Egypt, Turkey and Jordan will provide a healthy counterbalance to political tensions in the region.

“Energy won’t be a leader of the political process, but it can be a key incentive to move the geopolitical positions in a more positive direction,” said Amos Hochstein, U.S. State Department special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, during an interview at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Hochstein was discussing exports from Israel’s burgeoning natural gas sector to its neighbors. According to the Bloomberg news agency, the American diplomat helped broker deals signed this year between U.S. and Israeli companies and Jordanian clients, as well as an intended deal whereby Israel will provide the National Electric Power Company of Jordan with gas over 15 years.

Political opposition to the deals remains strong. Last week, Jordan’s parliament condemning the gas deal with Israel, while Turkey’s authoritarian president, Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, has also declared his opposition on the grounds that he objects to Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.

Hochstein declared confidently that energy deals “can be a great win-win for Turkey, Cyprus, Israel and the rest of the region.” Earlier this month, Israel and Cyprus launched a new push for EU funds to build a pipeline that could bring about 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) of their natural gas to Europe annually, easing the continent’s energy security anxieties in the context of continuing conflict with Russia over its intervention in Ukraine.

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