ROME, March 10 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday he wanted to export gas to Europe via Italy, telling his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni there was room for much greater cooperation between the two countries.
Netanyahu is spending three days in Rome, meeting political and business leaders.
In a brief statement following talks with Meloni, Netanyahu made no mention of the mass protests back home over a contested judicial reform or the surprise announcement that Saudi Arabia was resuming diplomatic ties with Israel’s arch-enemy Iran.
Instead, he offered to forge deeper ties with Italy in an array of sectors, including water, cybersecurity and energy.
“Italy has said it wants to be a hub for the supply of energy for Europe. We think exactly that and we have gas reserves that we are now exporting and we would like to expedite more gas exports to Europe through Italy,” he said.
Italy is committed to replacing its imports of energy from Russia in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year and wants to take advantage of this to become a major transporter of gas from North Africa and the Mediterranean.
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Israel signed an initial agreement in November with Eni (ENI.MI) and TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) that allows the energy companies to start exploring for natural gas within the framework of a landmark maritime border deal with Lebanon.
“There is now a participation of Eni in our gas projects, but we think we can carry it to a much higher level,” Netanyahu said. He added that Italian and Israeli ministers would meet in Israel in the coming months for bilateral talks.
“(We) will address perhaps a dozen areas of mutual cooperation to the benefit of Italy and Israel alike,” he said.
In a newspaper interview ahead of his trip to Rome, Netanyahu said he would ask Meloni to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Neither he nor Meloni mentioned this issue on Friday.
Reporting by Crispian Balmer
Editing by Christina Fincher
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