The East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) was officially launched on Tuesday by six member states signing the charter for the Cairo-based group that is designed to promote natural gas exports from the emerging basin.

The forum, which Egypt hopes will turn it into a gas hub, seeks to be a vital platform in bringing together gas producers, consumers and transit states to boost a sustainable regional gas market.

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France wants in

Energy ministers from Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan signed the statute in a virtual ceremony to formally establish the intergovernmental organisation, which immediately received a boost after France asked to be accepted as a new member.

Egypt's Petroleum Ministry said the forum, formed in January 2019, aims to "create a regional gas market, optimise resource development, cut the cost of infrastructure, offer competitive prices and improve trade ties".

“The EMGF fully respects the rights of its members to their natural resources under international law, and supports efforts to invest their reserves and their use of current and future infrastructure for gas through effective cooperation with gas industry parties,” it said.

Egypt hopes the forum can help turn it into a regional gas hub by importing supplies from Israel and Cyprus for re-exports through idle capacity at its two liquefied natural gas plants at the Mediterranean ports of Idku and Damietta. Supermajor Shell and Italy's Eni are the lead investors at Idku and Damietta, respectively.

Aiming to bolster co-operation

EMGF is open for membership submissions by any Eastern Mediterranean country, while others can join as observer members.

Egypt’s Petroleum Minister Tarek el Molla said that "turning the forum into a governmental organisation gives momentum to establishing a body that aims to bolster co-operation and dialogue over natural gas".

The signing of the charter comes amid rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean over Turkey’ exploration activities in waters disputed with Greece and Cyprus, two close allies of Egypt.

Ankara also opposes a recent maritime border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Greece, insisting it should be part of any regional deal involving gas transportation.

Greece is similarly disputing an exclusive economic zone deal between Turkey and Libya, which it says infringes upon its territory.

Greece has signalled its readiness to resume talks with Turkey over maritime zones and exploration rights after Ankara recalled a seismic vessel from a disputed area earlier this month.