DUBAI, Oct 4 (Reuters) – An Israeli company’s deal with Emirati partners to transport oil from the Gulf to Europe through Israel poses ecological risks, Israel’s environment minister said on Monday while visiting the Dubai world fair.
The Israeli government is assessing a request that if approved would see an influx of oil tankers docking in Eilat and unloading cargo that would then be transported through an overland pipeline to the Mediterranean coast. The deal has outraged environmental advocates in Israel.
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg said the government would take a decision “within weeks” but also cautioned that any oil spill would put Eilat’s famed coral reefs in “great irreversible danger.”
“My opinion is that we don’t have to increase any environmental risk in the Gulf (of Eilat),” she told Reuters at the Dubai Expo.
Israel’s state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Company struck the deal with MED-RED Land Bridge, which has Emirati and Israeli owners, last year after the two countries normalised relations.
EAPC, which had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters, has previously said it is committed to protecting the environment and is ready to handle an increase in oil.
National Holding, which owns Petromal, the Emirati owner of MED-RED Land Bridge, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the environment ministry’s concerns.
Zandberg said she had discussed her concerns with the UAE Ambassador to Israel and that both governments agree this was a commercial matter that does not affect bilateral relations.
EAPC wants the number of oil tankers docking at Eilat each year under its permit to increase from 6 to 70, according to the ministry. But the ministry says EAPC has so far provided insufficient and inadequate information to demonstrate it can mitigate the increased environmental risk.
“Definitely it will raise the environmental risk in the Gulf,” said the environment ministry’s director general, Galit Cohen. “Now the government should ask: do we accept the risk, what is the benefit for this, and what is the cost?”
Reporting by Alexander Cornwell
Editing by Mark Heinrich
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