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Diverse notions of Energy Security in a Multi-polar World

Dr. Sunod Jacob

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The concept of energy security has been at the front and centre of many important changes in international relations and international law since the 1970s. However, in the recent past, the speed of its evolution and the fleshing out of its scope and content has been quite dramatic. During this period, there has been remarkable flux in the patterns of global trading in energy products. In 2008–09, several key trends started to develop in the energy sector, triggered by the influence  of  two  new,  very  strong  factors:  the  global  financial  and  economic  crisis  and  the shale revolution in gas and oil production. The Energy Policy of the Trump Administration stands in contrast with that of the Obama Administration. The America First Energy Plan stated, inter alia, that “The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.” The Plan called for removing the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule, embracing the shale oil and gas revolution, commitment to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, boosting domestic energy production, achieving energy independence from the OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to US interests, and responsible stewardship of the environment. Two years later, a White House Fact sheet stated that under President Trump, the US had been establishing energy dominance, abolishing the war on energy and advancing American energy. Specifically, it was pointed out that United States had become, amongst others,  (a) the largest crude oil producer in the world, (b) a net natural gas exporter for the first time since 1957 including exports of LNG to the EU at an all-time high in March 2019 , (c) crude oil exports nearly doubled in 2018, reaching a record average of 2 million barrels a day, (d) coal exports reached their highest level in five years in 2018 and (e) withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and got “rid of costly Obama-era regulations like the Stream Protection Rule and the Clean Power Plan.” The George W Bush legacy was closer to the Obama approach. According to a Fact sheet on the same, President Bush had taken a reasoned, balanced approach to the serious challenges of energy security and climate change.

According to its White Paper of 2012 titled, “China’s Energy Policy” in 2011, the output of primary energy equaled 3.18 billion tons of standard coal, ranking first in the world. At present, nearly 50 percent of China’s total energy imports is from the Middle East. For the foreseeable future security of energy supplies will continue to remain a policy priority for Beijing. Under Xi Jinping, China has turned more ambitious in respect of its energy mix with considerable emphasis on new energy including through the Made in China 2025 policy and the Belt and Road connectivity initiative. It may be recalled that the ten year Made in China 2025 plan on promoting manufacturing was announced in May 2015 and specifically included energy saving cars and new energy cars among the ten key sectors. According to a MERICS Database made public in July 2019, two thirds of Chinese spending on completed BRI projects went into the energy sector, and already amounted to more than USD 50 billion. Renewable energy power-plants led the pack of completed, Chinese-funded energy projects with a total investment volume in excess of USD 20 billion. According to the 2019 Annual Report of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China  has  quickly  built  up  advanced  production  capacity  in  lithium-ion  batteries  and  established  control  over  a  substantial  portion  of  the  global  supply  chain,  exposing  the  United  States  to  potential  shortages  in  critical  materials,  battery  components,  and  batteries. Further, China is positioning itself to become a leader in nuclear  power  through  cultivating  future  nuclear  export  markets along the Belt and Road, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa,  and  attracting  advanced  nuclear  reactor  designers  to  build  prototypes  in  China. Finally, reference may also be made to China’s efforts at the Arctic region. Since 1999, China has organized a number of scientific expeditions in the Arctic, with its research vessel Xue Long (Snow Dragon) as the platform. In 2004, it built the Arctic Yellow River Station in Ny Alesund in the Spitsbergen Archipelago and by the end of 2017, China had carried out eight scientific expeditions in the Arctic Ocean, and conducted research for 14 years with the Yellow River Station as the base.

The position of the OPEC has also evolved. In a keynote address delivered by HE Abdalla Salem El-Badri, OPEC Secretary General, at the Chatham House Conference entitled “Middle East Energy 2008″ – Risk and Responsibility: The New Realities of Energy Supply – London, UK, 4 February 2008, he focused on the following characteristics: Energy security should be reciprocal;  universal, applying to rich and poor nations alike; focus on providing all consumers with modern energy services; apply to the entire supply chain; cover all foreseeable time-horizons; allow for the development and deployment of new technologies in a sustainable, economic and environmentally-sound manner; and benefit from enhanced dialogue and cooperation among stakeholders. A decade later, it is instructive to glance through the World Oil Outlook report 2019 launched on 5 November 2019 at Vienna, Austria. It states, inter alia, that demand for OPEC liquids is projected to increase to around 44.4 mb/d in 2040, up from 36.6 mb/d in 2018; global crude oil and condensate trade is estimated to remain relatively static at around 38 mb/d between 2018 and 2025, before increasing to around 42 mb/d by 2040; in the period to 2040, the required global oil sector investment is estimated at $10.6 trillion; and energy poverty remains a major global challenge, with almost one billion people still without access to electricity and three billion lacking access to clean fuels for cooking. The Aramco’s IPO is being watched with interest including for what it meant for energy security calculations especially of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The testy relationship between the US analysts and the OPEC markets remains even as the promise of shale gas fades away.

The Indian understanding of energy security encompasses four aspects, namely (i) availability of energy for all citizens, (ii) lifeline energy, (iii) supply that meets effective demand, and (iv) ability to withstand shocks and disruptions. The landmark India-US nuclear deal was intended to address the problem of energy deficit that had emerged as one of the primary constraints on accelerating India’s growth rate. According to a fact sheet of the Ministry of External Affairs of India of 27 June 2007, “Presently, only 3% of India’s energy needs are met from the nuclear sources. India plans to produce 20,000 MWe from the nuclear sector by 2020, an increase from the current 3,700 Mwe.” Full civil nuclear energy cooperation with the US was also expected to help India achieve energy security. Most recently, in his speech at 16th International Energy Forum Ministerial Meeting in New Delhi in early 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Given global uncertainties, India also needs energy security. My vision for India’s energy future has 4 pillars– energy access, energy efficiency, energy sustainability and energy security….the launch of the International Solar Alliance is a step towards fulfilling this commitment.” India had reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Agreement and achieved some successes through its citizen participation on certain aspects of the fight against pollution. Recent news reports indicate that the Government of India is in the process of formulating a new energy policy. The highly reputed National Geographic assessed in September 2019 that “India has emerged as a global leader in renewable energy, and in fact it is investing more in them than it is in fossil fuels

The IEA defines energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price. At the mid 2019 G20 Osaka Summit, the leaders acknowledged “…the importance of global energy security as one of the guiding principles for the transformation of energy systems, including resilience, safety and development of infrastructure and undisrupted flow of energy from various sources, suppliers, and routes.” They also recognized the value of international cooperation on a wide range of energy-related issues including energy access, affordability and energy efficiency, and energy storage. The WTO has in a limited way addressed some aspects of energy security. In the WTO Panel report of September 2018 on European Union and its Member States — Certain Measures Relating to the Energy Sector, where the complainant was the Russian Federation, one of the points of contention was regarding the third-country certification measure in the national implementing laws of Croatia, Hungary and Lithuania. Both parties agreed that the measure, de jure, violates the national treatment obligation in Article XVII of the GATS by requiring a security of energy supply assessment prior to the certification of third-country transmission system operators, but not domestic ones. Controlling the South China Sea has major implications for energy security in that region. The strategic context affecting upstream development in the South China Sea is a rising China that is increasingly able and willing to assertively pursue its perceived sovereign rights to oil and gas resources. The decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the case brought by The Philippines has relevance in this regard. The centrality of ASEAN countries in the 21st century Maritime Silk Road initiative of China is testimony to this. How the regional grouping handles the on-going negotiations on the Code of Conduct for the SCS is going to determine the safety of sea lanes in this busy and sensitive area. The imperative for energy security in such a vulnerable strategic region as the Asia-Pacific is paramount for global stability and development. In this regard, the 2007 non-binding Declaration on East Asian energy security signed by the leaders of the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, People’s Republic of China, Republic of India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand, on the occasion of the Second East Asia Summit on 15 January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines called for: cleaner and lower emissions technologies, use of biofuels,  improving efficiency and conservation, reducing the costs of renewable and alternate energy sources through innovative financing schemes,  intensifying the search for new and renewable energy resources and technologies, stable energy supply through investments in regional energy infrastructure, recycling of oil revenues and profits for equity investments, strategic fuel stockpiling, clean use of coal and development of clean coal technologies and international environmental cooperation, regional or bilateral cooperation & assisting less developed countries in enhancing national capacity building.

In 2017, the EU produced around 45 % of its own energy, while 55 % was imported; the energy mix in the EU, was mainly made up by five different sources: petroleum products (including crude oil) (36%), natural gas (23%), solid fossil fuels (15%), renewable energy (14%) and nuclear energy (12%). The main imported energy product was petroleum products (including crude oil, which is the main component), accounting for almost two thirds of energy imports into the EU, followed by gas (26 %) and solid fossil fuels (8 %); almost two thirds of the extra-EU’s crude oil imports came from Russia (30 %), Norway (11 %), Iraq (8 %), Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia (both 7 %) & more than three quarters of the EU’s imports of natural gas came from Russia (40 %), Norway (26 %) and Algeria (11 %), while almost three quarters of solid fuel (mostly coal) imports originated from Russia (39 %), Colombia and United States (17 % each). Of all the international players, the EU has been the most progressive on climate change issues. Recently, the European Investment Bank announced that it would stop funding fossil fuel projects by the end of 2021. On its part, the European Parliament has urged all EU countries to commit to net zero GHG emissions by 2050. The Commission is expected to present in 2020 a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions towards 55% in a reasonable way by 2030.

In conclusion, it is observed that the period from 2000 to 2019 has been transformational in multiple ways in respect of the evolution of the emphasis between renewables and non-renewables in the energy mix reflective of domestic green politics the world over, especially in Asia. The dissonance amidst the principal actors of the energy architecture can be inferred from transition from Balance to Dominance in the case of US; Emphasis on Environment in the case of EU; taking the lead in global Supply of Lithium and Nuclear in the case of PRC, Four Pillars of Energy Future in the case of India, Reciprocal Dimension of Energy Security in the case of OPEC and the myriad of perspectives from Plurilateral and Multilateral Institutions. With the passage of time, since the energy crisis of 1970s, reconciliation of how major players view energy security warrants greater attention as we move ahead.

Dr. Sunod Jacob The Peninsula Foundation Former Legal Advisor, ICRC Former Associate Professor of Law, GD Goenka University The author can be reached at sunod.jacob[at]thepeninsula.org.in

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Bids open for Somalia’s first-ever oil block licensing round

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Somalia has announced that it is opening licensing rounds for seven offshore oil blocks. This comes days after the Federal Government of Somalia approved the board members of the newly established Somali Petroleum Authority (SPA), which will serve to be the regulatory body of Somalia’s oil and gas industry.

Somalia’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Abdirashid M. Ahmed stated that the establishment of a regulator leadership is the first critical step of the implementation of Somalia’s petroleum law which was passed earlier this year and signed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo”.

The Petroleum Law asserts that the regulatory body serves to design a financial and managerial system that fosters international competition and investment into Somalia’s oil and gas industry. While also ensuring the citizens of Somalia, and the Federal Member States see their fair share of oil and gas revenue based on the revenue-sharing agreement.

Somalia has been plagued with civil war, drought and famine for nearly three decades, tapping into Somalia’s vast oil reserves which are estimated to be approximately 30 billion barrels would greatly contribute to the rebuilding and the development of the country’s infrastructure, security, and the economic and social sectors. Exploration for oil in the East African nation started well before the nations collapse in 1991. ExxonMobil and Shell previously had rights to five offshore oil blocks in Somalia and has recently renewed its previous lease agreement with the government of Somalia. Both companies have agreed to pay $1.7 million per month in rent for the leased offshore blocks.

The Office of Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources stated that the 7 blocks which are up for bidding process are among “the most prospective areas for hydrocarbon exploration and production in Somalia”

The licensing round will take place between August 4th, 2020, and March 12th, 2021.

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Armenia’s attack against Tovuz is also an attack against Europe’s energy security

Dr. Esmira Jafarova

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The recent escalation of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, this time along the international border in the direction of the Tovuz district of Azerbaijan in the aftermath of an armed attack launched by Armenia on July12–14, 2020,had been brewing for some time before finally boiling over into full-fledged military clashes, the worst in recent years, that caused causalities and destruction on both sides. Azerbaijan lost more than 10 servicemen, including one general and a 76-year-old civilian. There are many reasons why this attack happened in this particular border area (and not along the Line of Contact, as usual) and at this particular time, but in this piece I want specifically to focus on one of them and, in concurrence with other internationally recognized scholars in this field, assert that this attack against Azerbaijan should be considered as an attack against Europe’s energy security and well-being.

To begin, a brief review of the history of recent developments in conflict resolution testifies that, although the year 2019 was relatively incident free along the Line of Contact between the Armed Forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan, and for the first time in many years mutual visits of journalists took pace, the year was also identified as the “lost year for the conflict settlement” owing to the lack of progress in the negotiations. This absence of progress was accompanied by incendiary rhetoric employed by Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who, having ascended to power on the back of the many alluring promises of the so-called “Velvet Revolution,” found himself grappling to deliver on those ambitious reform pledges. The harbingers of heightening hostility were seen in Pashinyan’s infamous declaration during the pan-Armenian games held in Khankendi on August 5,2019, when he said that “Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenia, and that is all;” as well as his continuous insistence on changing the negotiation format –already established by the relevant decisions of the OSCE –to include representatives of the puppet regime in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region as an independent party to the peace negotiations.

The year 2020 started off with the January meeting of the Foreign Ministers in Geneva, and in April and June two virtual meetings were held because of COVID-19 lockdowns; however, hopes for any positive progress quickly subsided in the wake of other negative developments. The so-called “parliamentary and presidential elections” that were held by Armenia in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan on March31, 2020, were condemned by the international community. These mock elections later culminated in the Shusha provocation,in which the “newly elected president” of the puppet regime in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan was “inaugurated” in Shusha – a city that carries great moral significance for Azerbaijan. The last straw in a hostile build-up was the denial by Pashinyan of Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s comments about a staged, step-by-step solution to the conflict; Pashinyan denied that this was ever the subject of negotiations. The very recent threats by the Armenian Ministry of Defense, which publicly threatened “to occupy new advantageous positions” in Azerbaijan, further testified to the increasingly militaristic mood among Armenia’s upper echelons.

This litany of discouraging events relating to the peace process over the last year and a half in some ways heralded what we witnessed on July12–14, 2020.This attack against Azerbaijan along the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan reflects the deep frustration of the Pashinyan regime in its inability to bring about the promised changes. Economic problems were heightened by the COVID-19-induced challenge and decreasing foreign assistance, and this was all happening against the backdrop of Azerbaijan’s increasing successes domestically, economically and internationally. Azerbaijan has long been established as an important provider of energy security and sustainable development for Europe through the energy projects that it is implementing together with its international partners. The Baku–Tbilisi–Supsa Western Export (1998) and Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (2005) oil pipelines and Baku–Tbilisi–Erzurum (2006) gas pipeline have enhanced Azerbaijan’s role as an energy producing and exporting country, and the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) is already becoming a reality. This 3500-km-long Corridor comprises four segments – the Shah Deniz-II project, Southern Caucasus Pipeline Extension (SCPX), Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) and its final portion, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The Corridor passes through seven countries – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Italy – with Italy being the final destination receiving Caspian gas. Turkey is already receiving gas via TANAP and is contracted to accept up to 6 billion cubic meters of gas via this pipeline. Europe is expected to receive 10 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas per year, and the first gas has already arrived on Albanian territory. The SGC is scheduled to be fully operational by fall 2020 and TAP is almost complete. Things are progressing uninhibitedly and even the COVID-19 pandemic has been unable topreventthe success of the SGC. This Corridor stands as one of the guarantors of Europe’s energy security by providing diversification of energy sources and routes, even despite Europe’s Green Deal, which also acknowledges the continent’s long-term demand for gas.

Such critical infrastructure, vital for Europe’s energy security, passes close to the border area that includes the Tovuz district attacked by the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia on July12–14. Armenia is the only country in the South Caucasus that is isolated from these regional energy projects owing to its policy of expansion and occupation. It is thus the only country that does not have anything to losefrom creating chaos and destruction around this critical energy infrastructure. Jealousy and the feeling of self-imposed isolation from all regional cooperation initiatives have no doubt increased Armenia’s hostility toward these energy projects. Further vivid evidence of Armenia’s belligerence against Azerbaijan’s energy infrastructure was provided by its threat to attack the Mingachevir Dam, a civilian infrastructure project that is also a vital component of Azerbaijan’s largest hydroelectric power plant. Hydroelectric power comprises the largest component in Azerbaijan’s renewable energy potential, today standing at around 17–18%ofthe overall energy balance of the country. It is not difficult to imagine the magnitude of civilian causalities in case such a destruction materializes. 

By conducting this act of aggression against Azerbaijan along the international border in the direction of Tovuz, Armenia wanted firstly, to divert attention from its own internal problems. Secondly, the regime desired to disguise its failures on the international front, especially recently when Azerbaijan initiated the summoning of a special session of the United Nations General Assembly related to COVID-19,convened on July 10, that was supported by more than 130 members of the UN. Thirdly, Armenia wanted to drag in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) against Azerbaijan by invoking Article 4, which states: “… if one of the States Parties is subjected to aggression by any state or group of states, then this will be considered as aggression against all States Parties to this Treaty…”.Fourthly, and the central thesis of this article, Armenia intended to target critical energy infrastructure implemented by Azerbaijan and its international partners, thereby jeopardizing the energy security of not only the neighboring region, but also of the greater European continent. The aforementioned existing oil and gas infrastructure aside, the SGC is set to be fully operational by fall 2020, and this multibillion-dollar megaproject offers economic, social and many other benefits to all participating countries involved in the construction and implementation of this project. Any damage to this critical infrastructure would deal a heavy blow to the current and future sustainable development of Europe.

Europe must therefore be vigilant regarding such provocations. International actors, including the European Union,OSCE Minsk Group, United Nations, United States, and the Russian Federation, called for an immediate cessation of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, given what is at stake,including this time the crucial energy infrastructure, had Armenia’sattack not been proportionately parried by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, the statement made by the European Union about this recent military attack could have contained stronger language beyond just “…urging both sides to stop the armed confrontation, refrain from action and rhetoric that provoke tension, and undertake immediate measures to prevent further escalation… .” Naming and shaming the aggressor appropriately is indispensable in this situation. As Mr. Hikmat Hajiyev, Head of Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration and Adviser to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Foreign Affairs, also noted: “the EU should distinguish between the aggressor and the subject of aggression.”

In the 21st century, the international community should not tolerate such flagrant violations of international law; disrespect of UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874, and 884) and other relevant international documents calling for an end to the occupation of Azerbaijani territories; and the feeling of impunity in instigating an attack against a sovereign state, a neighbor, and a crucial player in the realization of critical energy infrastructure projects key to Europe’s own energy security. Azerbaijan has long put up with such aggression and the occupation of its internationally recognized territories in Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts, and has opted for negotiations toward a peaceful solution of the conflict. Yet the aggressor cannot be allowed to continue its attacks against other parts of Azerbaijan– this time Tovuz –thereby jeopardizing not only the latter, but also energy security and sustainable development of the greater European continent just because such provocations seem to offer an escape from the regime’s domestic and external problems. Such practices should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. This should be done not only for the sake of Azerbaijan and regional security in the South Caucasus, but in the name of Europe’s own energy security and well-being. 

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Palestine Plays Regional Power Politics with Proposed Energy Deal

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Faed Mustafa, Palestine’s ambassador in Ankara, Turkey

When Faed Mustafa, Palestine’s ambassador in Ankara, expressed interest in June in negotiating with Turkey an agreement on the delineation of maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean and cooperating on the exploitation of natural resources, he was repositioning Palestine in the larger struggle for regional dominance and the future of his state.

“We also have rights in the Mediterranean. Palestine has shares in oil and gas located in the eastern Mediterranean. We are ready to cooperate in these areas and sign a deal,” Mr. Mustafa said.

Mr. Mustafa did not spell it out, but Palestine would bring the Gaza Marine gas deposit, 36 kilometers off the Gazan coast, to the table. Discovered in 1999, the field, believed to have reserves of 31 billion cubic meters, remains unexplored as a result of multiple armed Israeli-Palestinian clashes, Israeli obstruction, and repeated changes in the consortium that would have ultimately exploited the field.

Palestine’s efforts to hook up with Turkey, at a time when relations with Israel have all but broken down, coincide with stepped up Israeli attempts to stymie Turkish inroads in Palestine paved by support for activists in Jerusalem and funding of historic and cultural facilities, in the wake of US President Donald J. Trump’s 2018 recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinian move also is a ploy to counter several steps taken by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to confront Turkey in Jerusalem and the eastern Mediterranean, facilitate a US plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that endorses annexation, and influence the succession of ailing 84-year old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed last week in a speech celebrating the change of status of Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia – originally built as a Greek Orthodox church in 537 AD, then renovated into a mosque before becoming a museum by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in 1935 – to a mosque once again this month, that it would be “the harbinger of the liberation of the Al-Aqsa mosque.”

Al-Aqsa on the Harm-e-Sharif or Temple Mount in Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest shrine. Backed by Israel, Saudi Arabia has sought to muscle its way into the Jordanian-controlled endowment that administers the Harm-e-Sharif.

A Palestine hook-up with Turkey could complicate Palestinian membership of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, dubbed the OPEC of Mediterranean gas, that also includes Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, and Jordan. France has applied for membership in the Cairo-based grouping while the United States is seeking observer status.

Founded in January and backed by the UAE, the Forum is virulently opposed to Turkish attempts to redraw the maritime boundaries in the region on the back of an agreement with Libya. Turkey refused to join the Forum.

While it is unlikely that the Gaza field will be operational any time soon, production would reduce Palestinian dependence on Israel. Palestinian officials said early this year that they were discussing with Israel an extension of Israeli pipelines to send gas from Israeli gas fields to Palestine but that the talks, contrary to Israeli assertions, did not include development of the Gaza field.

In a twist of irony, Qatar, the UAE’s nemesis, would support a pipeline agreement by guaranteeing Palestinian payments for the gas. The Israeli pipeline along a 40-kilometer route adjacent to the Gaza border with three pumping stations would enable Gaza to operate a 400 MW power plant in a region that has, at the best of times, an energy supply of 15 hours a day.

The status of the talks remains unclear given an apparent delay of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexation plans amid international condemnation and US insistence that the Israeli leader postpone his move that had been scheduled for July 1.

Qatar reportedly threatened to cut off millions of dollars in aid to Gaza, provided in coordination with the Israeli government, if the Jewish state pressed ahead with annexation.

In June, Israel  approved the transfer of US$50 million from Qatar to Gaza in a bid to dial back mounting tension with militants in the Strip that could spark renewed military confrontation as both Israel and Palestine struggle to get a grip on the coronavirus.

Some Palestinian analysts see the pipeline deal as an attempt by the Palestine Authority (PA) to enhance its influence in Gaza and undermine Hamas – its Islamist rival that controls the Strip – by a significant contribution to a surge in the power supply and a dramatic reduction of the cost of electricity. The risk, these analysts say, is that the pipeline would increase Palestinian dependence on Israel.

Economist Nasr Abdel Karim argued that Israel would only allow enhanced flows of gas, including from the Gaza field, if it leads to an even deeper split between the territory and the West Bank.

“Israel will not allow the Palestinians to benefit from the gas field for economic and political reasons. Israel might allow this in one case — if this plan is part of a bigger project to develop Gaza’s economy so that it splits from the PA and the West Bank,” Mr. Abdel Karim said.

Author’s note: An initial version of this story was first published in Inside Arabia

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