Egypt is edging closer to repaying its debts to foreign petroleum companies after paying $1.2 billion to International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in Egypt with plans to repay the remaining $1.2 billion owed before the end of 2019, The Arab Weekly reported.

“We are also committed to repaying all remaining debts to show that we are keen on long-term relations with these companies,” said Petroleum Ministry spokesman Hamdi Abdel Aziz. “We are doing everything we can to settle all debts soon.”

Over the past eight years since the 2011 revolution, Egypt has struggled to honour commitments to several IOCs. In 2014, debts to these foreign companies amounted to $6.3 billion, with some companies close to terminating their Egypt operations.

“This gave a very bad impression about our country among international petroleum companies,” Abdel Aziz said.

The payment of debts to IOCs is a part of the current economic reform program.

Egypt hopes that the petroleum sector can be a driving force of the Egyptian economy, especially recent gas field discoveries, such as the offshore Zohr which has estimated reserves of roughly 30 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The government has stated that petrochemical exports increased in the first half of 2018 and are expected to rise further as local gas continues to be developed.