Environmental concerns caused Israel to suspend UAE oil pipeline deal

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Head of marine protection unit accuses Israeli state-owned company of ‘ignoring ministry instructions,’ ‘negligence,’ and ‘impertinence’ in downplaying risks.

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry said Sunday that it was delaying implementation of a proposed oil transport deal with the United Arab Emirates, freezing a project that has angered environmentalists.

The agreement, which followed the UAE and Israel establishing diplomatic ties last year, would see Gulf oil brought to the Red Sea port of Eilat by tanker, then moved by pipeline through mainland Israel to the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon, from where it would be shipped to Europe.

The ministry informed Israel’s state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Company on Sunday that it rejected an environmental risk survey that was carried out in connection with the deal. The ministry also said it would delay work to assess the EAPC’s readiness to receive greater numbers of Gulf oil tankers at Eilat. This, said the ministry, is until the government has discussed and reached a decision on the controversial memorandum of understanding the company signed with the UAE in October.

It remains unclear which, if any, government ministries, knew about the deal before it was signed. The contents have not been made public.

The agreement is opposed by the former and current environmental protection ministers, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the local coastal authorities, a forum of some 20 environmental organizations, scores of scientists and Eilat residents.

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