Egypt considers gas imports from Israel: minister

People outside a gate to buy gas cylinders at a distribution point in Cairo January 13, 2015. REUTERS Photo

Egypt is open to importing gas from Israel, its oil minister said in state-owned media Jan. 14, another sign that it may lean on its neighbor to help tackle its energy troubles.

Egypt is going through its worst energy crisis in decades and is seeking fresh sources of natural gas, which powers most of its homes and factories, including Algeria, Russia, and Cyprus.

But importing gas from Israel is more controversial. Popular mistrust of the Jewish state runs high following three wars with Egypt and its continuing occupation of Palestinian land.

Oil Minister Sharif Ismail said gas imports from Israel were a possibility, when asked in an interview by the state-owned Al Mussawar magazine.

"Anything can happen. Whatever achieves the best interests of Egypt, and of the Egyptian economy and the role of Egypt in the region... That will determine the decision to import gas from Israel," he said.

Companies are already negotiating to bring Israeli gas to Egypt, but any deals will hinge on approval from Cairo.

Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, following three decades of intermittent conflict since Israel's creation in 1948.

While many Egyptians still view Israel with suspicion, relations have improved since the army toppled President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

The two countries also have a shared interest in containing the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and maintaining stability in the Sinai Peninsula where security has deteriorated since Morsi's ouster.

Egypt, which once exported gas to Israel and elsewhere, has become a net energy importer over the last few years.
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