Egypt's goal to be a net gas exporter by the end of this year will strengthen it politically, Egypt's petroleum minister said Saturday, stressing the opportunities for growth that would come from the recently-launched Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum.
"We cannot deny that if we are able to have our own energy this will give us some — not independence but let us say some strength, edge," Tarek el Molla told CNBC's Hadley Gamble at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa in Amman, Jordan.
The minister was speaking in response to a question about many Middle Eastern countries' reliance on their wealthier Gulf patrons like Saudi Arabia — and the fact that economic support from the Gulf also often means forfeiting independence in the foreign policy arena.
"The destiny of each country is at its own decision, however, you get to capitalize on what you have — so if you have the resource, the gas, you can play smart. And of course it would be a tool, or a card, that you can play with in politics, definitely," el Molla said.
"When I talk about the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, and we talk about the hub, I say that we will together be the hub," the minister stressed. "Egypt will not ever be able to be the hub, no, it will be the hub together with its neighboring countries, allies, partners … we are complementing each other in this field."
The forum, which aims to establish a regional gas market and offer more competitive prices, consists of Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and the Palestinian Authority, with its headquarters in Cairo. El Molla has described high investor interest in the opportunities the forum will offer.