Brussels (The Times Groupe)- Egypt and Israel have agreed to increase gas exports to Europe under a deal signed during the visit of the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to Cairo on Wednesday as the bloc seeks to wean itself off Russian gas.
Ursula von der Leyen also pledged relief worth 100 million euros ($104 million) for food security in Egypt, which has been suffering from grain shortages resulting from the Ukraine war.
“Russia’s war against Ukraine has exposed our European dependency on Russian fossil fuels, and we want to get rid of this dependency,” von der Leyen told a joint press conference with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
“We want to diversify to trustworthy suppliers, and Egypt is a trustworthy partner.”
During a visit to Israel on Tuesday, von der Leyen vowed to confront Russia about its use of fossil fuels to “blackmail” European countries.
The Egyptian petroleum ministry said a memorandum of understanding on gas exports was signed at the East Mediterranean Gas Forum.
A landmark $15 billion deal in 2020 will allow Israel to export gas from an offshore field to Egypt, where it will be liquefied and shipped to Europe.
Yet a significant increase in gas exports from Israel via Egypt would require major infrastructure investments.
The president of the European Commission explained that Egypt has many resources that can yield “the energies of the future”, and that the EU and Egypt should explore them jointly in “our common interest”.
Von der Leyen promised “immediate relief of 100 million euros” to support food security in Egypt, the nation that relies on Russia and Ukraine for over 80 percent of its grain.
“It is very important that here we stand together, globally, to manage this food security crisis, that we find solutions that are fair for everybody, that we look at the distribution of grain, for example, worldwide, and that we really have an emphasis on vulnerable countries,” von der Leyen said.
Additionally, she pledged three billion euros over the next five years to “agriculture, nutrition, and water and sanitation programmes”.
“The EU is very interested in investing in the local food sector,” she added.
“It is so important for us that in the region, the production of food is improved and increased, and thus the dependency from other regions is reduced,” she said.
“Over time this will ensure stable supplies of quality and affordable food for all… Egypt will be at the heart of this major shift.”
Sisi said von der Leyen’s first official visit builds on the recent “intense momentum” of Egyptian relations with the EU.
As part of her Israel visit, von der Leyen had accused Moscow of deliberately cutting off the gas supply to European countries “in retaliation for our support for Ukraine”.
“This is a big step forward in the energy supply to Europe, but also for Egypt to become a regional energy hub,” she said in Cairo.
In November, Egypt will host the UN COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Earlier Wednesday, von der Leyen traveled to Jordan and met with King Abdullah II; she described Jordan as an “essential partner” of the EU in comments posted on Twitter.
“You have a crucial role to play in the stability and prosperity of the region,” she said. russia