Gas exports to Israel have not returned to their pre-revolution levels, according to one official, as legal experts scramble to find ways to renegotiate a deal that was agreed under the previous regime.
An informed Egyptian official told Ahram Online that while Egypt had resumed its gas exports to Israel, this resumption is not at 100 percent of the level prior to the interruption of the exports a few weeks ago as a result of an attack on the pipeline.
Speaking on condition of strict anonymity, the official said that when the resumption started some two weeks ago, it was around 40 percent of the regular exports, and this amount has increased, but it is not at the level of cubic meters agreed upon according to the Egyptian-Israeli deal. "It is not even 80 percent, but it is keeping the Israelis pleased for now," he said.
According to the same official, the Israelis are "for sure expecting a wide range of changes in the overall volume of Egyptian-Israeli relations, in the wake of the regime change, and they certainly know that the gas issue might be one."
The official suggested that the deal "which was negotiated and signed" away from the expected scrutiny of concerned government departments – including certain departments at the Ministry of Oil no less – pledges Egyptian exports of natural gas to Israel "at a clearly preferential price" to Israel "for twenty years".
"Very few people know the exact details of the contract or how it was negotiated, but some have speculated that the price put on the contract is what actually goes to the state coffers and that there is some large amount of money that is channeled in parallel to someone else’s bank account – or maybe was channeled in advance."
He added that very few people are privy to the details of the contract and even fewer people have seen a copy of it.
Meanwhile, Israel was not officially notified of any "planned changes on the side of Egypt with regards to its gas imports", according to a Cairo-based Western source.
"Our understanding is that the situation should go back to normal shortly," the source said. He added that the understanding is that any current shortage of exports is supposed to be for technical rather than political reasons. "We are not aware of a political decision on the part of Cairo to change the terms of the agreement," he said.
During a recent meeting in Cairo, where he met with foreign minister Nabil El-Arabi, the director general of the Israeli foreign ministry did not dwell much on the issue of gas exports but expressed the expectation of his government to see relations return to normal on all fronts – politically, economically and in terms of security.
El-Arabi, who had underlined Cairo’s commitment to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, made no promises.
The issue of Egyptian gas exports was one of the matters discussed recently by Washington and Tel Aviv. It was picked up in Cairo during the visit of the director general of the Israeli foreign ministry to the American ambassador in Cairo, a foreign diplomat told Ahram Online. Recently, the US has interceded with the Egyptian government to secure the resumption of crucial Egyptian gas exports to Israel.
Cairo is well aware that it might fall under considerable pressure from the US and other Western nations to stick to the unfair articles of the gas exports contract, but legal experts say that they are currently examining possible legally-viable exits, with a view to partially renegotiating the deal.
"It might be impossible to fully renegotiate the deal but we will see what we can do to improve the situation," said one legal expert who is tasked with the mission. He added that given that the deal was signed in several phases, much research is still being done to fully acquire all the necessary papers before an attempt to renegotiate can be launched.