Egypt Inks Gas Deals in Western Region, Warns Turkey against Unilateral Moves

A man walks along the bank of the Nile River in front of high towers of hotels, banks and office buildings in Cairo, Egypt, December 17, 2019. (Reuters)
A man walks along the bank of the Nile River in front of high towers of hotels, banks and office buildings in Cairo, Egypt, December 17, 2019. (Reuters)
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Egypt Inks Gas Deals in Western Region, Warns Turkey against Unilateral Moves

A man walks along the bank of the Nile River in front of high towers of hotels, banks and office buildings in Cairo, Egypt, December 17, 2019. (Reuters)
A man walks along the bank of the Nile River in front of high towers of hotels, banks and office buildings in Cairo, Egypt, December 17, 2019. (Reuters)

Egypt announced on Monday the signing of petroleum agreements for oil and natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean and Western Desert region near the Libyan border, the first such moves in the area.

The agreements coincided with Cairo again indirectly warning Turkey against the repercussions of any unilateral moves that could breach the rights of Cyprus and threaten to the security and stability of the Middle East.

On Monday, Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum Tarek el-Molla signed nine agreements for oil and natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean and Western Desert region, with a minimum investment of about $452.3 million.

He said: “This is in addition to signing grants of about $84 million and drilling 38 wells.”

In 2017, the US Geological Survey (USGS) assessed that the natural gas reserve in the Mediterranean ranges between 340 and 360 trillion cubit feet.

El-Molla said that with Monday’s deals, the number of oil agreements signed by the ministry with investors and partners since July 2014 has reached 79.

Four other agreements approved by the Egyptian House of Representatives will be signed later.
He explained that the ministry's strategy involves offering new international bids during the coming period, as well as concluding more oil deals.

The minister asserted that the oil sector is “the backbone of economic development,” and that the agreements will attract new foreign investments that should help in boosting and maximizing Egypt's oil reserves and production.

Ahmed Qandil, director of the Energy Studies Program at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that the area where Egypt signed the new agreements on exploration had never witnessed such operations before.

On Sunday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry reaffirmed its respect for the rights and sovereignty of Cyprus in the Middle East under international law and related United Nations maritime conventions, including the areas in which Cyprus has license to explore for oil and natural gas.

Cairo and Ankara are embroiled in a legal and political dispute over oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.

On February 2018, Turkey said it does not recognize the Maritime Demarcation Agreement signed between Egypt and Cyprus in 2013 to draw up the maritime boarder between the two countries to exploit natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.



Food Piles Up at Gaza Crossing as Aid Agencies Say Unable to Work

Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
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Food Piles Up at Gaza Crossing as Aid Agencies Say Unable to Work

Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP

Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat, AFP reported.

More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.

Desperation among Gaza's 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.

Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.

"The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza," the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing late Friday.

"Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations."

But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the United Nations over why the aid is stacking up.

It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.

With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

A deputy UN spokesman this week said the crossing "is operating with limited functionality, including because of fighting in the area".

William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, said arranging lorries from the Egyptian side in particular was complicated.

"It's not just a question of civil order, but also the fact that you often have to cross battlefields," he said in an online briefing, adding that the area near Kerem Shalom had been hostile.

"There were even rockets fired nearby. So this whole area is particularly complicated to navigate for reasons linked to the hostilities and for reasons linked to general security."

Israel's coordinator for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, said Thursday "the content of 1,200 aid trucks awaits collection by UN aid agencies", saying a lack of distribution was responsible.

Earlier in the week, COGAT spokesman Shimon Freedman told reporters at the crossing the daily pause on a southern road into Gaza was designed to allow the UN "to collect and distribute more aid" alongside an Israeli military presence.

He said most of the aid had not moved because "organizations have not taken sufficient steps to improve their distribution capacity".

Aid agencies have instead pointed to Israel's offensive on the southern city of Rafah, which pushed out more than a million people and closed a border crossing with Egypt, as a deepening humanitarian crisis hampered relief efforts.

Schomburg described Rafah City as a "ghost town".

"It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and really just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months," he said.

The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by "desperate people".

As both sides stall, it is the civilians in Gaza who are paying the price.

"We don't see any aid. Everything we get to eat comes from our own money and it's all very expensive," said Umm Mohammad Zamlat, 66, from northern Gaza but now living in Khan Yunis in the south.

"Even agencies specialized in aid deliveries are not able to provide anything to us," she added.