CAIRO A Cairo court on Tuesday overruled the
Egyptian government's decision to allow exports of natural gas
to Israel and said the constitution gave parliament the right
to decide on sales of natural resources.
A senior Egyptian official said the verdict did not require
immediate implementation and the government would appeal
against it. Cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady said the government
respected the judiciary but could not comment until it receives
Judicial sources said the government could ignore the
ruling, as it has done in many past cases, or postpone action
by filing a countersuit challenging the decision.
Israel's Ministry of National Infrastructure said it was
confident the political agreement covering the gas between the
Egyptian and Israeli governments would remain in effect.
"The ... ministry has no doubt that deals between the
Egyptian gas company and its customers in Israel remain valid.
The ministry is convinced that the supply of gas from Egypt to
Israel will continue as usual," it added.
Gas started flowing to Israel through a pipeline for the
first time in May under an agreement signed in 2005 for the
supply of 1.7 billion cubic meters a year over 20 years.
The group of lawyers who filed the suit against the
government said the Israelis were buying the gas at prices
below the international level. The Egyptian government is
reluctant to reveal the price it receives for natural gas
The Ministry of Petroleum and East Mediterranean Gas (EMG),
the Egyptian gas exporting company, did not respond to requests
for information on their plans.
The government never submitted the gas deal with Israel to
parliament, arguing it was a private arrangement between EMG
and the state-owned utility company Israel Electric Corp.
It said the matter was outside the court's jurisdiction,
but the administrative court said it had the right to hear the
case and that the executive should go to the People's Assembly
(parliament) to obtain its agreement when it awards concessions
for natural resources.
"That is a compulsory measure specified by the constitution
and a basic condition for the action to be valid," the court
said, quoted by the Egyptian state news agency MENA.
"(Parliament) is the body best qualified to monitor the
actions of the administration with regards to granting
concessions to exploit natural wealth," it added.
Some Egyptian leftists and Arab nationalists oppose in
principle the sale of gas to Israel, which fought four wars
with Egypt between 1948 and 1973 before making peace in 1979.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr in Jerusalem; Writing
by Jonathan Wright; Editing by Matthew Jones)