(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Sources said Sunday that another round of negotiations over the development of Israel’s Leviathan offshore gas field by a serious player from Russia’s energy sector could be in the works. The degree of Russian interest is still unclear, but the potential renewed Russian interest comes on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last Thursday.
Some three years ago, the state-run Russian energy giant Gazprom expressed interest in buying gas harvested from Israel’s Tamar offshore filed. While a memorandum of understanding was signed on the issue, it never matured into a binding agreement. Gazprom later held talks to purchase a significant 30 percent share of the Leviathan field, but those negotiations never resulted in a deal, as Leviathan’s controlling shareholders entered negotiations with Australian company Woodside Petroleum, talks that ultimately also fell through.
Russian access to Israel’s natural gas deposits could have broad geopolitical implications. Russia is an important gas provider to Europe, and since the American company Noble Energy partly owns Leviathan, it appears Russia-U.S. relations may also become part of the equation.
Developing the Leviathan gas field is expected to cost controlling partners upwards of $5 billion. The field’s development hit a major snag after the Israeli High Court of Justice recently ruled that a landmark agreement to develop Israel’s offshore gas reserves is unconstitutional.