By Joel Gulhane
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has entered negotiations with Israel, seeking permission to develop natural gas off the Gazan coast in the Mediterranean Sea, according to Reuters.
The negotiations are sponsored by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who is now the envoy for the Quartet of Middle East Peace brokers – United States, European Union, Russia and United Nations.
Developing gas off the coast of Gaza would help to ease recent financial problems faced by the PA due to a lack of international aid. The revenues from the natural gas would go directly to the PA, bypassing the Hamas Islamist government who control Gaza.
The Israeli foreign ministry backed the plan in a report to world powers for economic aid for Palestinians, which was published on Sunday. The report stated, “development of the Gaza Marine gas field will generate revenues that could contribute dramatically to Palestinian fiscal sustainability.”
Blair’s spokeswoman, Ruth Winterstein, told Reuters that the talks were still in the initial stages and the actual gas field would, “take around three to four years to develop.” Winterstein also named two private partners who would develop the gas field, Consolidated Contractors Company and BG Group.
Hamas has not been included in the deal. Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters, “we do not recognise any agreement reached by the Palestinian Authority regarding the gas fields off Gaza’s shores and the government in Gaza should be consulted over any agreement of this kind.”