The lower house of the Jordanian parliament yesterday voted against the agreement for the supply of natural gas from the Leviathan reservoir to Jordan.
The debate took place despite opposition by Jordan Deputy Prime Minister Rajai Muasher, who stressed during the debate that the lower house lacked authority to discuss the issue. The debate was turbulent. Several speakers accused the government of enslaving the country to Israeli gas and granting Israel legitimacy in the Arab world, although Israel was "violating international law and stealing Arab gas." The Jordanian Constitutional Court will now hold a hearing on the lower house's authority to discuss the matter. If the court does not reverse the decision, the upper house of the Jordan parliament is also authorized to do so.
The lower house of the Jordanian parliament was elected in completely free elections, and most of the members are independent. It has little authority; its decisions are mainly symbolic. It serves mainly as a body for relieving the opposition's frustration. The lower house has previously passed many anti-Israel resolutions decrying commercial ties between the two countries.
The Jordanian parliament has no authority to cancel international agreements such as the deal with Noble Energy, so the vote is of no significance for the gas agreement in the near future. Its significance is mainly declarative. The lower house of parliament has traditionally served as a forum in which the king allows the opposition to let off steam. The Jordanian government reportedly plans to petition the Constitutional Court and to assert that the parliament has no right to interfere with such agreements.
The proceeds from the agreement between the Leviathan partners and Jordan are a key anchor for the banks in the financing agreement for development of the Leviathan gas reservoir. In addition to the Jordanian National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) anchor customer, the partners have signed gas sale agreements with customers in Israel and Egypt.
The agreement signed in September 2016 under the US Obama administration's sponsorship totals $10 billion. NEPCO is scheduled to receive the gas in the Naharayim area and transport it to Jordanian electricity producers. Under the agreement, NEPCO will buy 45 BCM of gas from Leviathan over 15 years, starting in late 2019.
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