By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
JERUSALEM/CAIRO/BRUSSELS (Worthy News) – Europeans struggling to pay their utilities were hoping for some relief Thursday after the European Union signed a deal with Israel and Egypt to boost natural gas exports to Europe to replace imports from Russia.
Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU), inked in Cairo, the EU will be the first to allow “significant” exports of Israeli gas to Europe, Israel’s energy ministry said. The agreement will see Israel send natural gas via Egypt, which has facilities to liquify it for export via sea.
Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar praised the signing of the MoU as cementing Israel’s central role on the global energy stage. “This is a tremendous moment in which little Israel is becoming a significant player in the global energy market,” Elharrar added.
The EU will also encourage European companies to participate in Israeli and Egyptian exploration tenders, the ministry said.
It was a significant turnaround for Brussels, which had considered sanctions over what it views as Israel’s “illegal settlements” in the “occupied Palestinian territory.”
But with Europeans facing towering costs for energy, the EU’s executive European Commission made clear it wanted a deal with the Jewish state.
Russia widened its gas cuts to Europe last month, with Gazprom saying it will turn off supplies to several “unfriendly” countries which have refused to accept Moscow’s roubles-for-gas payment scheme.
The move by the Russian gas giant was another retaliation to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow following its February 24 invasion of Ukraine, escalating its economic battle with Brussels and pushing up European gas prices.
Last year, the EU imported roughly 40 percent of its gas from Russia but now faces serious energy difficulties since imposing sweeping sanctions on Moscow.
However, the cooperation between the EU and Israel was expected to raise eyebrows in Moscow, which had been open to potential peace talks on Ukraine in Jerusalem.
Israel has walked a diplomatic tightrope as it tries to present itself as a potential mediator between Russia and Ukraine, analysts say. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was among only a few Western-aligned leaders to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Israel has a strong cultural connection to both countries. Nearly 15 percent of its population are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, mainly from Russia and Ukraine, according to estimates.
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