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Israel, Jordan, UAE sign new MOU on deal to swap solar energy for desalinated water

Agreement declares ‘positive potential prospects’ of projects shown in feasibility studies; signed in presence of US climate envoy John Kerry at COP27 climate conference in Egypt

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The signatories to a renewed memorandum of understanding for a UAE-brokered water and energy deal on November 8, 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
The signatories to a renewed memorandum of understanding for a UAE-brokered water and energy deal on November 8, 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates signed a renewed memorandum of understanding on Tuesday regarding a UAE-brokered deal signed a year ago to have Jordan provide solar energy to Israel, and Israel channel desalinated water to the Hashemite Kingdom.

The MOU was signed in the presence of US climate envoy John Kerry at the UN COP27 climate conference in the Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheikh.

Outgoing Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej signed for Israel, backed by a team from the Energy Ministry led by director general Lior Shilat. Outgoing Energy Minister Karine Elharrar was not present at the confab.

Mohammad Al Najjar, the Jordanian minister of water and irrigation, signed for Amman, while UAE Climate Change and Environment Minister Mariam Al Mheiri signed on behalf of the Gulf nation.

The MOU pledges to continue “engaging to develop the necessary implements in plans in time for COP28,” which will be held in the UAE next November.

Illustrative — A solar plant during its official inauguration at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, on November 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

It is understood that the MOU is aimed at projecting the message that the parties are moving forward with the agreement and that there will be “something to see” at next year’s conference.

The MOU signed last November at the Dubai Expo was one of “intent.”

The latest document states that feasibility studies for each of the projects have been ongoing and the parties affirm that both Prosperity Green (a 600 MW capacity solar plant with storage to be built in Jordan) and Prosperity Blue (the export to Jordan of 200 million cubic meters of desalinated water per year) have been shown to have “positive potential prospects.”

The agreement will see Israel purchase solar power from the Jordan-based facility, which will be constructed by an Emirati firm, and Jordan purchase water from an Israeli site to be constructed along the Mediterranean coast.

The deal represented the latest byproduct of the Abraham Accords normalization agreement Israel signed with the UAE in 2020 under the auspices of the Trump administration. The Biden administration has pledged to build on those agreements while remaining adamant that they are not a replacement for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Illustrative: A desalination plant in Hadera, May 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Jordan is one of the world’s most water-deficient nations and its cooperation on water with Israel dates back to before the two established formal relations. The nation, nearly landlocked, faces dire water prospects as its population expands and temperatures rise.

Israel is also a hot, dry country, but its advanced desalination technology has opened opportunities for selling freshwater.

The UN’s COP27 climate summit kicked off Sunday in Egypt with warnings against backsliding on efforts to cut emissions and calls for rich nations to compensate poor countries after a year of extreme weather disasters.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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