The simmering tensions between Egypt and Algeria resulted in a new petroleum export deal

Some people believe that any improvement should have an apparent order and structure. Others believe that chaos is the natural order of the universe and can be controlled to achieve the results that business requires. That was similar to the case between the two Arab countries Egypt and Algeria.

The crisis sparkled due to the Egypt-Algeria football match, which turned into a tragedy in which most media were involved. As a result, the Egyptian-Algerian diplomatic relationships took a wrong turn and many ties between the two countries were cut. However, calming voices emerged to cool the atmosphere between the two countries.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s words, which were both angry and rational, called for rectifying the situation, in a way that secures each side’s rights, while at the same time allowing the anger to subside. Mubarak refused to turn his back on historical and geographic ties, allowing a mere football match to determine the future of the strong relationship that binds two nations.

On the other hand, Algerian Presidential Adviser Mohamed Rezzag Bara expressed his regret over the incidents that took place after the football match played between Egypt and Algeria in Sudan. He called on all those who believed in a common Arab cause to overcome the crisis caused by the match.

Bara was invited by the Egyptian Human Rights Council President Boutros Boutros-Ghali to attend the first meeting of the Permanent Forum for Arab-African Democracy and Human Rights Dialogue, at which Bara will present a paper on his country’s position on migration issues in Arab North Africa.
“President Abdelaziz Bouteflika instructed me to cancel all my arrangements and attend the forum,” Bara said, pointing to this as a strong message confirming brotherly relationships between Egypt and Algeria surmounting any crisis.

Last month, an Algerian delegation participated in a conference devoted to small businesses in Mediterranean countries which was held in Cairo under the auspices of French Foreign Trade Minister Anne-Marie Idrac. The Egyptian Trade and Industry Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid welcomed Algeria’s participation in the event, which, he said, “proves the success of the new dynamic created by the Mediterranean Union initiative.”

Conversely, Algerian Petroleum Minister Shakib Khalil reportedly proposed a new petroleum export deal with Egypt in a step to ease boiling tensions between the two countries.
As Algeria’s state-owned energy firm Sonatrach is setting up an oil and gas joint venture with two Egyptian national companies. Sonatrach was due to meet with Egyptian counterparts from state-owned firms Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) and Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) to discuss setting up the $10 million joint venture. Sonatrach will hold a 50 percent stake in the new company, Selena, and the Egyptian companies will hold the remaining 50 percent. The joint-venture will be in charge of exploration and production to find oil and gas in Egypt, Algeria and in third countries.

The firm will alternate its presidency between Egypt and Algeria with offices in both countries as if the president is Algerian then the vice president will be Egyptian and they will swap every three or four years.
Khalil discussed several proposed joint oil refinery and petrochemical projects with his Egyptian counterpart Eng. Sameh Fahmy. The Egyptian Petroleum Ministry spokesman Hamdi Abdel Aziz quoted Khalil as saying, “Egypt is the big Arab and African sister of Algeria.”

Khalil went further on to praise Petrojet, an Egyptian oil company, currently carrying out projects in Algeria worth a total of some LE3.2 million, as one of the leading Egyptian petroleum companies operating in Algeria. Three months ago, it signed a $1 billion contract with Italian ENI’s Saipem Company to install a gas pipeline in Algeria on behalf of Sonatrach.
The Algerian Minister confirmed that energy projects implemented in collaboration between Algerian fuel company Sonatrach and its Egyptian counterparts operating in Algeria are still under way, despite the recent crisis sparked by the World Cup qualifying match.

Khalil said that discussions will be held with the officials of companies involved in partnerships with Sonatrach in order to find the best way to counter delay caused by the departure of Egyptian labor from Algeria as a number of Egyptians working in the Algerian branches of Orascom, Sewedy Cables, and Arab Contractors had left the country due to fears of falling victim to violence in the wake of the match. He previously delivered a statement through state television in which he said that the Egyptian companies are still committed to continuing the projects they were contracted to execute, and added that the companies’ directors will be contacted in order to further bind them to their commitments.

From his side, Acting Egyptian Ambassador to Algeria Hisham Abdel Wahab said that Egyptian workers that had fled Algeria in the aftermath of the contentious football matches had returned to their jobs amid a “fraternal atmosphere.” He added that the Algerian authorities had been “very cooperative” with the Egyptian expatriate community in Algeria.

Thus, the turmoil, which was erupted previously between the two countries, was exploited to strengthen the ties which previously existed in addition to fixing the broken ones, thanks to the rational voices.

By Ahmed Morsy

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