Israel says Egypt gas cutoff a business dispute (REUTERS) Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Tim Pearce JERSALEM, ISRAEL 04/23/12 3:29am EDT)
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(Reuters) - Israel, aiming to avoid further damage to its troubled
ties with Cairo, said on Monday it saw the Egyptian termination of a
deal to supply Israel with natural gas as part of a business rather
than a diplomatic dispute.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli radio stations the
cancellation of the deal was "not a good sign," but added "We want to
understand this as a trade dispute. I think that to turn a business
dispute into a diplomatic dispute would be a mistake."
"Israel is interested in maintaining the peace treaty and we think
this is also a supreme interest of Egypt," he said.
The Egyptian company EGAS confirmed on Sunday the termination of the
20-year-old contract, under which Egypt supplied 40 percent of
Israel´s natural gas.
EGAS Chairman Mohamed Shoeib said the decision was not political,
telling Egypt´s Hayat TV that "EGAS ended the deal because the other
party didn´t fulfil its commitments".
Egypt was the first of two Arab countries to sign a peace treaty with
Israel, in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.
Ties have been strained since President Hosni Mubarak, an advocate of
the peace deal, was toppled by a popular revolt last year.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz voiced alarm on Sunday about
the economic as well as diplomatic repercussions of the decision to
end the contract.
The supply pipeline running through the lawless Sinai peninsula has
been damaged repeatedly by saboteurs in the past year, causing
extensive supply disruptions, and Israel had warned residents to
expect electricity outages this summer.
Steinitz also said the Egyptian cancellation had set "a dangerous
precedent which casts a shadow on the peace agreements and the
peaceful atmosphere between Egypt and Israel".
(Additional reporting Dina Zayed in Cairo and Ari Rabinovitch in
Jerusalem; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Tim Pearce) (©
Thomson Reuters 2012. 04/23/12)
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