TEL AVIV, Israel, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Companies working in the Israel energy sector said they're still pursing commercial deals in Egypt despite reports of a breakdown in talks.
Egyptian media outlet Ahram Online reported during the weekend the government in Cairo announced plans to suspend negotiations between companies working to bring Israeli gas into the domestic market. The suspension followed word that state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum Corp. and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Co. would appeal a multibillion dollar penalty ordered from international arbiters ruling on the collapse of 2012 Israeli gas export deal.
Delek Group, one of the parties to proposed export deals, said it was not involved in arbitration proceedings with Egyptian gas companies. In response to various media reports on the freeze in the talks, the company said it was moving forward with commercial negotiations.
"The aforementioned negotiations are not with the Egyptian national gas companies, but rather with commercial companies," Delek said in a statement. "The partnerships and its partners in the Leviathan project and the Tamar project are in regular contact with these companies and are continuing the aforementioned negotiations as planned."
Leviathan and Tamar combine for an estimated 28 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, with Leviathan accounting for more than half of the aggregate.
Political and economic instability in Egypt in the wake of the Arab Spring movements left the government in debt to energy companies eager to tap the country's reserve potential. The government this year agreed to cover at least $2 billion owed to a group of operators collectively.
"The parties will continue to work with the competent authorities in the governments of Israel and Egypt for obtaining all the required approvals in connection with the agreements for the export of gas from Israel to Egypt," Delek said.
The Israel Antitrust Authority ruled that Delek and its partners at Noble Energy, which has headquarters in Texas, control all of the gas reservoirs off the nation's coast. A compromise deal from 2014 called on Noble and Delek to sell their stakes in the Karish and Tanin fields off the coast of Israel in exchange for maintaining their holdings in Leviathan and Tamar.
The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in September voted in favor of a framework agreement that would usher in development of natural gas reserves.