“We see this as privilege to be first [sector in Israel] to sign agreement with new state,” Energy, Water Minister Uzi Landau.

In the first official agreement between Israel and South Sudan, Israel Military Industries Ltd. signed a pact to cooperate on water infrastructure and technology development during a ceremony at the Knesset on Monday.

“We see this as a privilege to be the first [sector in Israel] to sign an agreement with the new state,” Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau said in a statement aimed at Akec Paul Mayom, water and irrigation minister of South Sudan.

“We will continue to do everything possible in order to assist you. You are among friends.”

Zvika Fox, IMI’s vice president of strategy and marketing, signed the framework agreement on behalf of Israel. The agreement outlined plans for cooperation between the two countries on desalination, irrigation, water transport and purification, according to the Energy and Water Ministry.

The meeting took place in a warm and friendly atmosphere, with an opening address by Landau, who said he admired “the spirit of freedom and adherence to an idea” of the people of South Sudan.

“I am very pleased and excited to meet the people of this wonderful state,” he said. “It is not hard to feel a sense of togetherness, as well as to notice the great similarities between the people of both countries.”

Both peoples, Landau said, have had to stand up for their existence, and Israel has much to pass on to South Sudan.

“The lessons from the stories of our people are similar,” he added. “We have experienced… inhumanity. Our duty is to ensure that this does not happen again.”

The minister stressed that Israel had “much knowledge and much to contribute” from its experience regarding water and said he felt this was “the beginning of fruitful cooperation.”

Mayom told Landau that his country has been facing particularly difficult times in the economic sphere, as Khartoum has been disrupting South Sudan’s oil exports.

“Sudan asks us for $36 on every barrel of oil going through its territory, while other countries throughout Africa demand tens of cents only,” Mayom said. “This is absolutely unprecedented. Our economy is sinking.

We have no other resource by which to rebuild our economy.”

Citing the lack of oil refineries in South Sudan, Landau suggested that in the framework of bilateral cooperation the county transfer its oil to Israeli facilities.

“This way we will help you solve various problems in your area,” he said. “We will be pleased to examine this.”