(Bloomberg) -- Israel’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, will meet his Egyptian counterpart and other oil ministers from the Mediterranean region at a gathering in Cairo as part of Egypt’s broader push to transform itself into a regional gas hub.
Also participating in the Cairo-hosted forum will be the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, and Jordan, along with representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Italy, with the focus on discussing “regional cooperation in the natural gas industry,” Israel’s energy ministry said in a statement. Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek El-Molla later confirmed the news in an interview Sunday evening with local TV channel Al Hayah.
The ministry said Steinitz was departing Israel on Jan. 13. The meeting will take place Monday.
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The presence of the Israeli minister in Cairo, along with participation from the Palestinians, reflects the growing importance of natural gas to the aspirations of governments in the region and tests the frigid and sometimes hostile interactions that have dominated Middle Eastern politics for decades.
Israel’s energy ministry said in the statement that the gathering would be held annually in Cairo and would bring together governments and companies to discuss regional gas "regulation, agreements, economic contribution of natural gas, geopolitical implications” and the natural gas infrastructure.
"The purpose of this Cairo-based forum is to unify policies and maximize the benefits through the cooperation between these countries," El-Molla said. "We will discuss how to benefit and complete each other."
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The event comes nearly a year after the signing of a $15 billion deal to import Israeli gas to Egypt. Major gas finds in Cyprus, Israel and Egypt over the past few years have transformed the eastern Mediterranean region into an energy hot spot.
Egypt’s East Gas and the companies developing Israel’s largest natural gas fields agreed last year to buy 39 percent of the East Mediterranean Gas Co., which owns the pipeline connecting southern Israel to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. That cleared the main legal obstacle to a 10-year export contract signed in February.
(Updates with Egyptian oil minister comments in second, sixth paragraphs.)
--With assistance from Salma El Wardany and Mirette Magdy.
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