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Israel freezes oil deal with UAE over environmental concerns

An aerial view of the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company's (EAPC) oil terminal at Israel's southern Red Sea port city of Eilat, on February 9, 2021. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
An aerial view of the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company's (EAPC) oil terminal at Israel's southern Red Sea port city of Eilat, on February 9, 2021. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Environmental Protection Ministry says it is 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, than moved by pipeline through mainland Israel to the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon, from where it would be shipped to Europe.

The oil deal, involving Israel’s state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) and an Israeli-Emirati company called MED-RED Land Bridge Ltd, has not launched.

But activists have sounded the alarm about potential threats to the northern Red Sea corals off Eilat’s coast.

Israeli environmental organizations challenged the plan in court, citing the risks of a devastating leak or spill, with tens of millions of tons of crude expected to be brought through Israel each year.

EAPC submitted its response in court last week, providing a risk assessment, which it claimed that the risk from the increased flow of crude was miniscule.

But today, the Environmental Protection Ministry says the risk assessment “did not meet the conditions” stipulated by the ministry, and is therefore not valid.

The ministry tells EAPC in a letter it is “delaying the evaluation of your preparations to increase activity in the Eilat port, until the government has a discussion and reaches a decision” on the project.

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