Former Lebanese Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil discussed on Wednesday January 30th with his Egyptian counterpart Tarek el Molla ways of boosting bilateral cooperation in the petroleum and gas domains, just a day before the formation of the new Government and the handover of the MEW to the new Minister Nada Boustany Khoury.
In a statement, Molla reiterated distinguished relations binding Egypt with Lebanon, expressing Egypt's readiness to offer all forms of assistance to Lebanon in the petroleum and gas domains.
Molla said talks tackled regional cooperation in the natural gas domain and Egypt's role in the eastern Mediterranean gas forum (EMGF), that was held on January 14.
Talks also tackled the possibility of training Lebanese professionals in Egyptian training centers.
The Lebanese minister accompanied by the Energy Consultant Ghassan El Khoury expressed their country's desire that Egypt would resume pumping natural gas to Lebanon as part of the 2009 contract signed between the two sides through the existing Arab Gas pipeline.
Eastern Mediterranean countries agreed earlier in January to establish an organisation to spearhead efforts to transform the region into a gas hub, yet new East-Med gas body excluded two key regional states, Turkey & Lebanon.
Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Palestine met in Cairo to set up the eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum to build a regional gas market, cut costs and offer competitive pricing, Reuters reported .
Turkey and Lebanon were left out of the meeting, though both began exploratory drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. Both countries’ claims to eastern Mediterranean waters have been disputed: Turkey’s by Cyprus; Lebanon’s by Israel.
The new organisation will be based in Cairo and aim to “create a regional gas market that serves the interests of its members by ensuring supply and demand, optimizing resource development, rationalizing the cost of infrastructure, offering competitive prices and improving trade relations,” Egypt’s Petroleum Ministry said in a statement.
Other eastern Mediterranean countries could join the forum later, the statement said.
Eyes to the future of the regional gas hub:
Despite the Lebanese minister's flash visit to Egypt and his focus on Lebanon's desire that Egypt would resume pumping natural gas to Lebanon as part of the 2009 contract signed between the two sides, the most prominent problem remains Lebanon's joining or cooperating with EMGF directly or through a mediator, as things have become advanced in terms of relationship between the mentioned countries of the Forum including Israel, while Lebanon is out of the frame at least for the near future.