Netanyahu makes surprising announcement proposing renewal of efforts to complete deal on Gaza gas

In a move stunning in its timing and significance, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced on Friday afternoon – with the Quartet’s Tony Blair standing by his side – that he now thinks it’s time, finally, to develop Palestinian-allocated offshore natural gas deposits buried under the eastern Mediterranean in maritime space, defined by mutual agreement under the Oslo Accords, that extends 20 nautical miles out from Gaza’s coastline.

Netanyahu did specifically mention Egypt in the announcement on Friday, saying: “Most of our [natural gas] supply today is coming from Egypt”, Netanyahu said. But, he added immediately, “It’s important for us to develop additional resources”.

The exact situation on the ground, resulting from the Egyptian-Israeli natural gas deal, is rather unclear.

The announcement – as CNN’s Jerusalem correspondent Kevin Flowers pointed out in a Tweet on Friday afternoon – came on the eve of the first meeting of the Middle East Quartet principles of 2011 on Saturday (February 5) in Germany, on the margins of the Munich Security Conference.

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