Cancelling UAE-Israeli pipeline deal could cause a diplomatic storm: report

Cancelling UAE-Israeli pipeline deal could cause a diplomatic storm: report
3 min read
16 June, 2021
An unnamed senior Emirati official has told Israeli media that if the new government were to ditch the agreement 'there could be a crisis in the [UAE's] relations with Israel'.
There has been no formal statement from the Emirati authorities [AFP via Getty]

The cancellation of a deal to transport UAE oil through an Israeli pipeline would cause a 'crisis' in relations between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi and threaten the ‘stability’ of a normalisation agreement between the two countries, an Emirati official has warned.

This follows pressure from Israel's environment ministry, including a statement from the newly appointed minister to reverse the deal between Israeli-state owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) and MED-RED Land Bridge, which has Emirati and Israeli owners, over environmental concerns.

In comments reported by right-wing newspaper, Israel Hayom, an unnamed senior Emirati official was quoted as saying that if Israel's new government ditched the agreement "there could be a crisis in the relations with Israel, and it could jeopardise the stability of the Abraham Acccord".

There has been no formal statement from the UAE, which has become one of Israel's strongest open allies in the Middle East after signing the Trump-era normalisation agreement that opened the path to a flurry of deals covering vast business and commercial sectors.

But in a handover ceremony on Tuesday, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg of Israel’s left-wing Meretz Party attacked the deal.

"The Gulf of Eliat is in real danger because of the Eliat-Ashkelon pipeline, and the State of Israel should not be an oil bridge to other countries," said Zandberg.

The bulk of criticism from environmental groups centres on the risk of potential oil spills, with a separate incident devastating Israel's Mediterranean coast, as well as another involving the Eillat-Ashkelon pipeline that ravaged a nature reserve. Coral reefs at Eilat are prone to catastrophic levels of contamination due to strong winds and currents.

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Meanwhile, UAE oil has begun being fed through the pipeline, unloaded from Emirati tankers at the Port of Eilat in southern Israel and bound for Europe at a special pier in Ashkelon.

The companies involved have championed the deal's economic incentives, which they say offers the short and most cost-effective way to transport oil from the Gulf to West.

But details of the Israeli-owned EAPC deal have been kept under wraps, possibly due to a 15-year government gagging order in place since 2017.

The outgoing environmental minister said the agreement was signed without her ministry's approval. Last week, Gamleil wrote to the head of National Security to protest the deal, citing the environmental concerns and the possibility of transporters and oil facilities being attacked by militants, which occurred in response to Israel's recent escalation in Gaza.

The Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline, known also a the Trans-Israel pipeline, was the product of a Shah-era oil transportation deal between Iran and Israel, one which collapsed with the Islamic revolution of 1979.