Arab energy ministers meet in Beirut to discuss gas-line deal
Arab ministers of energy and oil from Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon on Saturday have decided to further study the economic feasibility of a regional gas pipeline deal agreed on in late January in Cairo.
Following the two-day meeting in Beirut, Minister of Energy Wael Sabri said the four ministers, who compose the "higher council" overseeing the implementation of the project, discussed a feasibility study on both a marine and landline for the transportation of Egyptian gas to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, that in the future is envisioned to extend to Turkey and the European continent.
The Jordan News Agency, Petra, quoted Sabri as saying that the four ministers also were exploring "the kind of partnership" that might be established between the four countries, the structural outlines of the project and the possibility of forming a general secretariat and technical, commercial and legal committees to prepare for the launch of the project."
In an interview last Thursday with the Jordan Times, Sabri said a regional gasline, along with the progressive linking of Arab countries' electricity grids, could constitute the foundation of Arab economic integration.
However, Jordan's role in the gas project remains unclear. Egyptian and Lebanese officials have said that the pipeline would be laid in international waters from Egypt's Al Arish to Tripoli, Lebanon.
From there it would extend overland to Syria, and from Syria the line would travel to the north of Jordan and to Syria's border with Turkey.
Sabri has said that the line would extend from Al Arish to the Aqaba Gulf, overland through Jordan to Syria and from Syria to Lebanon and Turkey.
"The ministers were originally thinking of having the line through the Mediterannean from Al Arish to Tripoli and then to Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Jordan," Sabri said.
"When we met [in Cairo] we explained that it was expensive [to have a line in the sea], so why not come through Jordan.
This is the regional gasline for which the memorandum of understanding was signed [in Cairo three weeks ago]," he said.
On Saturday, Lebanese Minister of Energy Mohammad Beydoun was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that "further deliberations" on the economic feasibility of the projected $1 billion project were necessary.
He offered no explanation other than to say that the economic feasibility was discussed "related to the sea and land links and the partnership among the four states."
( Jordan Times )
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)