While the North African nation has been critical of Israel in recent months, this move could be seen as a way of continuing business relations via British proxy.
This week the London-based energy firm Energean PLC entered as a partner in the operations of the Chariot Energy Company in Morocco. This story holds potential significance for Israel, as Energean is well-known for its active presence there.
Despite recent tensions between Morocco and Israel following the outbreak of war with Hamas in October, this collaboration between Energean and Chariot marks a potential milestone in the bilateral cooperation fostered by the historic Abraham Accords in 2020.
As part of this strategic transaction, Energean has acquired a substantial share of the Anchois gas field franchise, a move that holds immense potential for the exploration and production of natural gas. The location’s proximity to existing infrastructure facilities for gas supply to both local and international markets adds a layer of efficiency to the venture.
The potential of this transaction
The Anchois franchise presents an opportunity for Energean to examine the possibility of producing up to 18 billion cubic meters (BCM) of gas. Additionally, the agreement grants Energean the option to continue drilling to explore an additional 11 BCM.
Dr. Leila Benali, Morocco’s Energy Transition and Sustainable Development minister, emphasized the strategic significance of this agreement for Morocco’s energy assets. “This investment will greatly contribute to the monetization of our gas assets and the advancement of our ambitious energy strategy,” she said.
Matthews Riggs, CEO of Energean, highlighted the importance of this development for the company’s growth as a leading independent gas exploration and production entity.
“This is a significant step in our further development as an independent and leading gas exploration and production company. These assets are particularly attractive to us, because we understand the core geological, commercial, and political issues that drive the region, we have proven success in developing substantial gas sources intended for local markets, and there is an adjustment and complement to the portfolio here our existing and supply potential to additional markets,” he said.
What does this mean for Israel and Morocco’s economic ties?
Morocco has exhibited a degree of caution in its diplomatic relations with Israel following the outbreak of war between the latter and Hamas in October.
This hesitance suggests that Morocco is carefully navigating its stance on maintaining ties with Israel. However, the collaboration between Morocco and Energean, facilitated through a third party, emerges as a strategic move that allows Morocco to engage in business relations while managing the sensitivities surrounding the Israel relationship.
Energean’s involvement serves as a conduit, offering Morocco a more nuanced approach to continue its economic engagements without directly confronting the complexities associated with the recent conflict.
“If we were having this conversation before October 7, I would say that this looks like more of the same,” said Dr. Daniel Zisenwine, an expert from the Truman Institute at Hebrew University. “Since the war in Gaza broke out, though, Morocco has been wary, I would say, of its relationship with Israel,” he said.
“So far, Morocco has not in any way threatened to break ties, or anything else. But there is concern, and these are uneasy times across the Middle East and North Africa,” he said, noting that Morocco has displayed caution and expressed concerns about Israeli actions in Gaza.
Zisenwine highlighted that Energean’s partnership with Chariot is a potential positive sign from an Israeli perspective. The move, particularly during such a sensitive time in the region, could indicate a commitment to maintaining economic ties despite political challenges.
The fact that Energean is a British company adds a layer of ease for Morocco in digesting this collaboration.
Zisenwine drew attention to the historical precedent of Morocco engaging in unofficial ties with Israel even during the period of suspended official relations. This “normalization without normalization” included trade and Israeli tourism, illustrating that “Morocco is certainly comfortable with this sort of unofficial or less direct type of relationsOn the other hand, he explained, “The Israeli government, though, would not want to go back to that; they’d like to keep things official.”
The business and economic ties between the two nations remain somewhat icy for now, but more moves like this could indicate a willingness to keep things moving – though it will require willingness from both halves of the relationship.
Source : The Jerusalem Post