Senior Diplomat Hopeful Israel-UAE Oil Deal Clears Environmental Hurdles
i24 News – Israel’s top diplomat in Dubai said he is hopeful a deal to ship Emirati oil will clear environmental hurdles as trade booms between the two Middle Eastern powers.
Ilan Sztulman Starosta, who heads Israel’s first consulate in the UAE economic hub, told AFP that trade between the two countries would “easily” surpass $1 billion within a year, if the COVID-19 pandemic abates.
His assessment came despite Israel freezing the Gulf oil deal last month over fears that spills could threaten unique coral reefs in the Red Sea.
Environmentalists had voiced anger over the plan to transport it via an aging pipeline to Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast for onward transport to Europe.
“The environment ministry froze the program. So now they went into a project to have professional people look at the pipeline and check what’s needed to make it foolproof,” Sztulman Starosta said.
“And eventually I hope that this is going to be open again because it’s a very good deal for both the Emirates and the state of Israel.”
Business exchanges between the two sides were already robust. Sztulman Starosta said Israel-UAE trade hit $500 million in August, excluding investments, after deals ranging from tourism and aviation to financial services.
“I’m being conservative, I think we might double the trade volume in one year, if COVID-19 goes away,” he said.
“Because the potential is absolutely huge for both sides … I think we can very easily achieve this.”
About 200,000 Israelis have visited the UAE since the establishment of ties, Sztulman Starosta added, with an estimated 40 Israeli companies setting up in UAE free-trade zones.