This latest move involves substantial amounts of gas and will no doubt cause Israel and the US much concern. Is Russia about to take a leading role in the Middle East?
Al monitor reports: In a significant political and economic development, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Jan. 23 with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting came as a prerequisite to officially sign an investment agreement aiming to develop the Gaza offshore gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. It is only logical to assume that this step will raise the ire of Israel. The latter does not appreciate the role Russia plays in the region, especially since Israel has never come to an agreement with Russia.
AFP reported that there were talks of investing $1 billion to develop the Palestinian gas field. It is known that the two fields explored offshore of Gaza in the Mediterranean are called Gaza Marine 1 and 2. In 1999, the Palestinian Authority granted the British Gas Group the exclusive rights to explore gas. In 2000, the company announced that it discovered gas and was seeking to develop the field in partnership with Consolidated Contractors Company and the Palestinian Authority. However, the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada, in addition to Ariel Sharon assuming the premiership of the Israeli government and his refusal of funding the Palestinian Authority through gas revenues, has impeded the finding of markets to produce and subsequently develop this field. Back then, the Israeli government sought to buy gas from Egypt to avoid buying gas from the Palestinian field.
Itar-Tass, the official Russian news agency reported that the Russias natural gas giant Gazprom wishes to produce 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas as part of its process to invest the field.
The report added that Russia’s Technopromexport engineering firm was also considering a small oil development project near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
It was not immediately clear how far negotiations on the two deals had progressed or when the projects might be launched.
Abbas announced in Moscow that he is dealing with Russia as a major power, which has to play a key role in the Middle East. He added, “We are happy to see that Russia is an active and influential power on the international arena.” Abbas old Itar-Tass, “We would like to see Russia playing a leading role in the Middle East, since it is a major power.”