In a virtual ceremony hosted by Cairo, Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan have established the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) as an intergovernmental organisation.

All six states signed a charter through an Egypt-based energy forum, giving formal status to a group that seeks to promote natural gas exports from the eastern Mediterranean and that Israel hopes will strengthen ties with its Arab neighbours.

The group unites regional rivals of Turkey, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with European Union members Greece and Cyprus over gas drilling rights in the region.

The Palestinian Authority is also part of the forum, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.

France has applied to join, with the United States and European Union requesting observer status.

For Israel, the forum “brings regional cooperation with Arab and European countries, the first of its kind in history, with contracts to export (Israeli) gas to Jordan and Egypt worth $30 billion, and that is just the beginning”.

Egypt began importing Israeli gas at the start of this year, for possible re-export to Europe or Asia. The 2015 discovery of the giant offshore Zohr field had unlocked interest in Egypt’s energy market and encouraged Cairo to promote itself as a regional hub.

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24th September 2020