02/06/2011 02:54

Netanyahu, Blair announce potential resumption of project; “I think this is good for prosperity and peace,” PM says.

Israel expects to resume talks with the Palestinians on the development of two natural- gas fields off the Gaza coast with an eye toward opening them within a year and a half.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Quartet special envoy Tony Blair announced the potential resumption of project negotiations on Friday, when they met in Jerusalem.

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They spoke just one day before an explosion in Sinai cut the pipe via which Egypt sends natural gas to Israel.

“It’s important for us to develop additional [natural gas] resources, but it’s also important for the Palestinians,” said Netanyahu.

“There’s a Palestinian Authority gas field adjacent to an Israeli gas field [off the Gaza coast.] We need to develop both simultaneously. This is something that the Palestinian Authority has expressed interest in.

“I think we’re going to begin discussions and negotiations to facilitate both, where the revenues from the Palestinian field go to the Palestinian Authority, and the revenues from the Israeli field go to the Israeli government,” said Netanyahu.

“I think this is good for stability, good for prosperity and good for peace,” he said.

Blair added that the gas from the Palestinian field, known as Gaza Marine 1, would be sent to Gaza, including to the power plant there.

“This is an important breakthrough for the Palestinian Authority, the people in Gaza and the broader region,” said Blair.

Talks to develop an agreement that would allow the development of the two fields broke off in 2007 after Hamas forcibly took over Gaza.

If the talks succeed, Israel’s field, known as Gaza Marine 2, could be the first of its natural gas resources to come on line, as it’s expected that other projects would not be operational until the end of the decade.

On Friday, Netanyahu said it was important for the country to diversify its supply of natural gas.

“Israel has, of course, its own gas supplies down the line in the close of the decade, but we have interim gas needs,” said Netanyahu.