Saudi Aramco to resume oil shipments to Egypt

Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco will resume oil shipments to Egypt,  Petroleum Ministry spokesperson Hamdy Abdel Aziz told Mada Masr on Wednesday.

He said that Saudi Arabia made the decision “on principle,” however a detailed time frame for the resumption of shipments has yet to be announced.

Washington-based diplomatic sources told Mada Masr that US pressures were exerted to ease the tensions between Egypt and Saudi, as well as between Egypt and Turkey, in return for cooperation in fighting the Islamic State in the region.

The sources added that these efforts materialized following Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Gubair’s visit to Iraq at end of February, the first visit by a Saudi foreign minister in 14 years.

Aramco suspended its oil shipments to Egypt last October. The current US$23 billion agreement between Aramco and the Egyptian government entails importing 700,000 tons of petroleum products monthly into Egypt for 5 years.

Although there was little official comment on the reasons behind the suspension, signs of growing political tensions between Egypt and Saudi had surfaced during the preceding months. The decision pushed Egypt to look for alternative contractors for oil.

A recent court ruling invalidating the land transfer deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia concerning the two Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir was the first sign of this growing tension.

The resumption of oil exports to Egypt comes one day after Egypt’s Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal made remarks asserting that the Tiran and Sanafir agreement had been submitted to Parliament, and that he would “tackle it according to his constitutional powers.”

Tensions also arose around issues pertaining to the Syrian crisis.

In October Egypt voted in favor of two rival draft resolutions on Syria during a UN Security Council meeting. One, drafted by Russia, was rejected by European and Gulf states and excluded a crucial clause, included in the rival draft, demanding the aerial bombardment of, and military flights over, Aleppo end.

Egypt’s vote for the Russian resolution was criticized by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Al Jazeera reported. The Saudi Arabian delegation stated that it was painful to see an Arab representative to the Security Council taking such a position.

Government sources told Mada Masr in late February that Saudi has indirectly demanded the withdrawal of its US$2 billion deposit in Egypt’s Central Bank. According to Reuters, four Egyptian real estate companies halted the implementation of memorandums of cooperation signed with the Saudi government during the visit of Saudi’s King Salman Abdel Aziz to Egypt in April 2016, in light to the recent tension between the two countries.