Category Archives: UK

Syrian opposition make impossible demands to try and collapse peace talks

The Syrian ‘opposition’, a bunch of terrorist jihadis funded by Saudi, Qatar, the US and the UK have refused to negotiate with the Syrian government unless the Syrian government agrees, in advance, that it will not be any part of the future government of Syria. This is despite the fact that the Assad government has widespread popular support and the jihadis have little or none and no claim to be the government of Syria.

The fact that the Syrian ‘opposition’ wants complete surrender from the Syrian government, before they begin talks, shows that they are not at all serious about this attempt to reach a peaceful solution at this conference, to which they have been dragged kicking and screaming. Clearly they wish the talks to fail so that they can resume their terror campaign against the Syrian people.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/01/24/uk-syria-crisis-idUKBREA0J0SX20140124

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‘Prince’ Harry witnessed unprovoked murder of Afghan goatherds by US forces

Amongst this PR piece for the Ginger Prince, is an interesting account of the random murder of some Afghan goatherds by US forces in Afghanistan

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362684/The-bloody-day-Harry-witness-horrific-war-crime-Prince-just-220yds-away-US-special-forces-troops-fired-machine-gun-Afghan-goat-herders.html

Prince Harry was no more than 220 yards away when a US trooper standing aboard an armoured vehicle cocked a .50 calibre machine gun and fired successive bursts at Afghan shepherds tending their goats, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The shocking incident, which was confirmed last night by the Ministry of Defence, triggered a war crimes investigation by US military police.
It took place on Harry’s first frontline tour of Afghanistan, which, until today, has been shrouded in secrecy.

At the time Harry’s squadron from the Household Cavalry Regiment (HCR) were mounting joint patrols in Helmand province with a US Special Forces unit codenamed ‘Task Force 32’.
According to a British eye- witness the three shepherds were peacefully minding their own business when they were engaged.
Given the force of the heavy machine gun rounds it is likely they suffered serious or fatal injuries, though their bodies were never recovered.

Harry’s colleague Sergeant Deane Smith, 40, was so enraged that he recorded his reaction on a video camera, saying: ‘The Americans are fifty-caling [machine-gunning] goat herders and it’s disgraceful!’

Sgt Smith then zoomed in on the armoured vehicle from where the US trooper had launched his attack.
Sgt Smith, a commando engineer, has given the first graphic account of Harry’s front-line experiences and how the Prince dodged repeated Taliban ambushes.
Harry’s first tour ended in February 2008 after an Australian magazine broke a media embargo over his presence in the war zone.
Subsequent reports suggested Harry was treated as a VIP rather than just another junior officer while he was there. In fact, as this newspaper has established, he was pitched into the thick of the fighting.

Sgt Smith has told The Mail on Sunday how the day before Task Force 32 opened fire on the shepherds, Harry witnessed the deaths of young children when a Taliban rocket intended to strike his vehicle missed its target and struck an Afghan family home.

Sgt Smith also described how Harry, then just 23, displayed a remarkable empathy for his soldiers, some of whom were overwhelmed by the horrors of war.
He said: ‘I’ll never forget the Yank opening up on the shepherds, which was a completely unjustified attack and sadly typical of how the campaign was conducted. But Harry had a way of reconciling everything he saw and keeping his emotions in check, often when more experienced soldiers were crying their eyes out.
‘On the day of the rocket attack on the family home, Harry was there, comforting a soldier as the charred remains of young children were removed.
‘He also arranged for the wounded to be transferred from the battlefield to a military hospital.
‘The dead were very young, their arms the width of two of my fingers. This was horrible to see.

‘In early 2008, I spent ten weeks in Helmand with Harry and he was fearless throughout, even when armoured cars were being blown up and he was being shot at.
‘Looking back, I can’t believe he was so keen to subject himself to such danger.’
Sgt Smith added that Harry’s disregard for his safety unsettled his soldiers, who would implore him to swap his favourite baseball cap for a protective helmet whenever enemy rounds were fizzing overhead.

Harry also came within a single stride of setting off a live IED (improvised explosive device), a brush with death he laughed off as he lit another from an endless chain of cigarettes.
Harry was apparently critical of British tactics and complained when his armoured column were ordered to retreat – at the time UK and US forces were involved in Operation Snakebite, the battle to recapture the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province from the Taliban.

BBC correspondent in Afghanistan admits pro-army bias ‘Embedded in Iraq: ‘a tool in the military tool box, willingly or not’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/blogcollegeofjournalism/posts/Embedded-in-Iraq-a-tool-in-the-military-tool-box-willingly-or-not?postId=116764291#comment_116764291

Caroline Wyatt has covered the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq for the BBC. In the first instalment of a two-part blog to mark the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, she describes the nature of the relationship between the media and the military in 2003 and what that meant for embedded journalists:

Caroline Wyatt reporting from Iraq
It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since we stood nervously by our vehicles on the Iraq border with Kuwait, scarves over our faces to protect us from the vicious sandstorm that whipped up in the region that long March day, waiting for our war to start.

For the dozens of journalists ‘embedded’ with British forces as they drove into Iraq that day, the war was threatening a rather belated beginning.

A Kuwaiti border guard was insisting that, even if we were part of a higgledy-piggledy column of British military and civilian vehicles, driving through long after the initial US tanks and Humvees, we didn’t have the right stamps in our passports to invade Iraq.

Thankfully, after much shouting and gesticulating through mouthfuls of sand, someone in British uniform persuaded the border guard that he really should let us through. We had a war to cover and it wasn’t going to wait for us.

It was almost worthy of Evelyn Waugh’s comic yet brilliantly accurate novel of war corresponding, Scoop. For a journalist, conflict provides some of the most vivid and powerful stories of humanity; of individual or collective acts of great courage; of good versus evil. But just as often we end up covering stories in shades less identifiable – where it can be hard to tell friend from foe, victory from stalemate, or when tragedy and comedy sit perilously close, and information is hard to come by – as it was in the early days of Iraq, a war that was, and remains, deeply controversial in the UK and elsewhere.

We often talk about the media and the military. But really there are no such things. I prefer to think of us first as individuals, and then as tribes, rather than homogenous blocks: the broadcasting tribe and the newspaper tribe within the media and the Army tribe and all its sub-units, and the RAF and Royal Navy and Royal Marine tribes that make up the military.

Just as any of those tribes can work together, and are part of a collective, each can also come into conflict with the other or within its own sub-tribes at any moment, and loyalties can be stretched in unexpected ways.

In 2003, we had to sign up to embed as official ‘war correspondents’, sign the Green Book with the MoD/military, and agree that all our copy and images would be screened by our military media minders.

We had to train to protect ourselves from chemical/biological/nuclear warfare with the NBC respirators and rubber suits that the MoD would provide us with that February. And agree to embed for up to a year if necessary – if the war lasted that long.

We agreed, and were issued with our smart blue ‘war correspondent’ armbands. I learned that I would be one of the BBC team embedding with British forces attached to the media ‘hub’, which began in a desert somewhere in Kuwait before we crossed into Iraq.

On day one in the desert, in the heat and the sand, we quickly realised where the power lay – and it wasn’t with us. We knew that as embedded journalists our lives were in the forces’ hands. British forces cooked our meals, dug our shelters, gave us information, and controlled where we could go – and that was an uncomfortable position for any journalist to be in.

That first day we were told to put our tents up while wearing our unwieldy and hot NBC kit. It wasn’t necessary, but it did show us that we were not in charge and didn’t make the rules here. We did have our own vehicle but we were told not to use it. So we were also relying on the British forces we were with for access to people and places, as well as information.

It also meant that we had chosen a side to report from, albeit as part of a wider BBC team that also had journalists and crews inside Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad, giving a different perspective and the other side to the war.

And all those embedding, wherever they were, knew that they had become a tool in the military toolbox, willingly or not, which the military and governments on both sides would seek to use to send messages to each other and to the wider watching public around the globe. It was hard not to feel an instinctive sympathy and indeed empathy with the troops looking after us. A benign form of ‘Stockholm syndrome’, if you like.

But at the same time embedding did not mean that we gave up the right to be analytical or indeed critical in the best sense when reporting on what we saw.

People often talk about the fog of war. In and around Basra in spring 2003, the fog and dust of war kept getting in the way. One day we were briefed that 80 Iraqi tanks were seen coming out of Basra. Two hours later it was down to just one or two tanks.

All the media that day – whether us, Sky, ITN or Channel 4 – in the ‘Press Information Unit’ had to go back on air to say, rather sheepishly, that the 80 tanks we’d been briefed about didn’t exist. Had never existed. Well, at least 79 of them hadn’t. And as for the other one – who knows?

Edward Snowden offered asylum by Venezuelan president

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/06/edward-snowden-venezuela-asylum

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro said on Friday he had decided to offer asylum to former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has petitioned several countries to avoid capture by Washington.

“In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden,” Maduro told a televised military parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.

The 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor is believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport.

WikiLeaks said on Friday that Snowden had applied to six more nations for asylum, bringing to about 20 the number of countries he has asked for protection from US espionage charges.

Maduro said Venezuela was ready to offer him sanctuary, and that the details Snowden had revealed of a US spy program had exposed the nefarious schemes of the US “empire”.

“He has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the US spying on the whole world,” Maduro said.

“Who is the guilty one? A young man … who denounces war plans, or the US government which launches bombs and arms the terrorist Syrian opposition against the people and legitimate president Bashar al-Assad?”

“Who is the terrorist? Who is the global delinquent?”

Russia has shown signs of growing impatience over Snowden’s stay in Moscow. Its deputy foreign minister said on Thursday that Snowden had not sought asylum in that country and needed to choose a place to go.

Moscow has made clear that the longer he stays, the greater the risk of the diplomatic standoff over his fate causing lasting damage to relations with Washington.

Earlier on Friday, Nicaragua said it had received an asylum request from Snowden and could accept the bid “if circumstances permit”, president Daniel Ortega said.

“We are an open country, respectful of the right of asylum, and it’s clear that if circumstances permit, we would gladly receive Snowden and give him asylum in Nicaragua,” Ortega said during a speech in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua.

Ortega, an ally of Venezuelan president Maduro, did not elaborate on the conditions that would allow him to offer asylum to Snowden, who has been at the eye of a diplomatic storm since leaking high-level US intelligence data last month.

Options have been narrowing for Snowden as he seeks a country to shelter him from US espionage charges.

A one-time cold war adversary of the United States, Ortega belongs to a bloc of leftist leaders in Latin America that have frequently taken up antagonistic positions with Washington.

Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, has benefited greatly from financial support from Venezuela, and Ortega was a staunch ally of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez.

Edward Snowden’s nightmare comes true

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/edward-snowden-nsa-93742.html?fb_action_ids=10151761440457658&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=.Udc_r-hzq9Q.like&fb_source=ticker&action_object_map=%7B%2210151761440457658%22%3A358649504260749%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210151761440457658%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&action_ref_map=%7B%2210151761440457658%22%3A%22.Udc_r-hzq9Q.like%22

Edward Snowden’s nightmare may be coming true.
Not exile; not the danger of imprisonment or prosecution; and not his newfound association with dictators, lawyers and impresarios.

Snowden’s worst fear, by his own account, was that “nothing will change.”
“People will see in the media all these disclosures, they’ll know the lengths the government is going to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society and global society,” he told The Guardian last month after he’d asked it to identify him as its source. “But they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.”

One month after The Guardian’s first story, which revealed an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing the National Security Agency to collect the phone records of every Verizon customer, there has been no public movement in Washington to stop the court from issuing another such order. Congress has no intelligence reform bill that would rein in the phone tracking, or Internet monitoring, or cyberattack planning, or any of the other secret government workings that Snowden’s disclosures have revealed.
There is no modern day Sen. Frank Church ready to convene historic hearings about the intelligence community, like the ones Church ran in the 1970s, proceedings that radically transformed the U.S. intelligence services. Far from having been surprised by Snowden’s disclosures, today’s intelligence committee leaders stepped right up to defend the NSA’s surveillance programs. From Republicans, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, to Democrats, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, they’ve been nearly unanimous in their support.
“I feel I have an obligation to do everything I can to keep this country safe,” Feinstein told The New York Times. “So put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/edward-snowden-nsa-93742.html#ixzz2YGIXyIUG

We should have talked to Taliban a decade ago, says top British officer in Afghanistan

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/28/talks-taliban-british-officer-afghanistan

The west should have tried talking to the Taliban a decade ago, after they had just been toppled from power, the top British commander in Afghanistan has told the Guardian, barely a week after the latest attempt to bring the insurgent group to the negotiating table stuttered to a halt.

General Nick Carter, deputy commander of the Nato-led coalition, said Afghan forces would need western military and financial support for several years after western combat troops head home in 2014. And he said the Kabul government may have to accept that for some years it would have only shaky control over some remoter parts of the country.

Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, he said: “Back in 2002, the Taliban were on the run. I think that at that stage, if we had been very prescient, we might have spotted that a final political solution to what started in 2001, from our perspective, would have involved getting all Afghans to sit at the table and talk about their future,”

Acknowledging that it was “easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight”, Carter added: “The problems that we have been encountering over the period since then are essentially political problems, and political problems are only ever solved by people talking to each other.”

But he believed the police and army had been shaped into sustainable institutions that were strong enough to protect a critical presidential election next year, and guarantee stability for the majority of the country after the western withdrawal.

The US and Afghan governments are pushing hard for negotiations to end a conflict that has dragged on for more than 12 years. But critics have long argued that the west could have struck a deal with moderate Taliban leaders after ousting the group from power in 2001, perhaps saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

One academic who studies the Taliban said the group tried to reach out to their own and the US governments until 2004, and would have made major compromises. “There would not have been too much negotiating to be done, even, in 2001 or 2002, because the Taliban’s senior leadership made their approaches in a conciliatory manner, acknowledging the new order in the country,” said Alex Strick von Linschoten, author of An Enemy We Created.

Today the insurgent group dominates swaths of the country, and seems ambivalent at best about negotiating ahead of the departure of foreign troops. Underlining how challenging efforts to broker peace talks are, the latest efforts collapsed in diplomatic farce last week.

The Taliban opened an office in Qatar which was meant to be a formal base for meetings and was welcomed by Washington, but the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, shut down the process after Taliban spokesmen presented the villa as a de-facto embassy for a government-in-exile.

Carter said he was confident that Nato’s handover of security to Afghan forces, finalised last week, would eventually bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

“What the opponents of the Afghan government now realise is they are likely to be up against capable Afghan security forces who are going to be here in perpetuity and therefore that old adage that ‘We have the clocks but the Taliban have the time’, has now been reversed,” he said.

“They are now up against security forces who have the time, and they are also Afghan forces … for those reasons I think that there is every chance people will realise that talking is the answer to this problem,” added Carter, who previously served as the top Nato officer in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban’s birthplace.

With a potential political solution far off, 2013 has been a year of heavy violence. Civilian casualties are rising and a string of high-profile attacks have hit Kabul including an assault on the airport and an audacious raid into the heart of the heavily fortified diplomatic and military zone.

These assaults were unlikely to let up before western troops left, as the Taliban tried to position for possible talks, and wage a campaign to claim credit for a the western exit, Carter said, although troops were actually leaving on a timetable set by the Afghan government and Nato in 2010.

“First of all, people like to negotiate from a position of strength, and secondly I think the opponents of Afghanistan would like to appear to compel the international community’s withdrawal,” Carter said. “I don’t think it’s surprising that we are seeing spectacular attacks in Kabul and a continuance of attacks elsewhere.”

The strength of the insurgency meant Kabul would not control all of the country for some years to come, said Carter, who previously described Afghanistan’s likely post-2014 situation as “stable instability”.

“There will be parts of Afghanistan which will not necessarily be as closely linked to central government as others … there will therefore be some local political solutions which won’t in any way threaten central government,” Carter said. “That phenomenon may go on for a while.”

Nato only began the buildup of Afghanistan’s police and army in earnest in 2009, and the rapid pace of expansion towards a target of 350,000 meant the police and army would need help for years to come, particularly in highly skilled areas such as bomb disposal, medical evacuation and logistics.

“The security forces will need continuing development because they have been built very quickly,” Carter said. One major roadblock for now was the lack of planes and helicopters, critical to dominating a large, mountainous country with poor and often deadly roads. “The plan to field the airforce … is designed to give them more capability every year, but probably not to be fully fielded until 2017-18.”

But he said their institutions were now sustainable and overall he was optimistic about Afghanistan’s future, as long as the US and its allies came through on promises of financial and military support.

“When you see how this country has developed in the last 10 to 12 years, it’s a completely different place, and people have completely different expectations,” he said. “We owe it to all of those who have invested a great deal of effort in what we have been doing here since 2001 to see it through.”

Syria ‘friends’ agree urgent support for rebels

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23012637

Can there ever have been a greater misnomer for a group? These jackals are no friends to the Syrian people, 90% of whom (according to NATO research) do not support the western supported Al Qaida cannibals that are the Syrian ‘rebels’.

It makes me sick that my government is sending arms to these maniacs – it will certainly mean more innocent people getting killed. The British people have had no say in this decision and there has been no vote in parliament on it.

Former French Foreign Minister: The War against Syria was Planned Two years before “The Arab Spring”

UK and France plan to arm Syrian rebels despite opposition from EU, Russia and Amnesty International

The UK and France, acting on Obama’s orders, have deliberately spoiled any chance of an agreement with EU partners on renewal of current EU embargo on arms to Syria. This means that when the EU embargo ends (1st June) each EU country will be free to pursue its own course of action regarding sending arms to Syrian rebels and of course, in the case of the UK and France, we know what that means. All EU other EU countries and Russia, as well as bodes such as Amnesty International, oppose arming the Syrian rebels on the grounds that it can only reduce the chances of a successful political solution and increase the violence and suffering for innocent civilians

US pushes Europe to amend arms embargo on Syrian rebels)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/22/syria-arms-embargo-rebels

Syria Rebels ‘Committing War Crimes’, Amnesty Urges Caution Over Arming Opposition

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/03/13/syria-opposition-war-crimes-amnesty-rebels_n_2867000.html

Russia says EU lifting Syria embargo hurts chances for peace

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/May-28/218612-russia-says-eu-lifting-syria-embargo-hurts-chances-for-peace.ashx

EU failure will allow UK, France to arm Syrian rebels

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/27/us-syria-crisis-eu-idUSBRE94Q09320130527

Reuters) – Britain and France are free to supply weapons to Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad from August, after attempts to renew an EU arms embargo on Syria failed on Monday.

After a marathon negotiating session in Brussels, EU governments failed to bridge their differences and let a ban on arming the opposition expire, with France and Britain scoring a victory at the expense of EU unity.

Britain and France have made a commitment not to deliver arms to the Syrian opposition “at this stage,” an EU declaration said. But EU officials said the commitment effectively expires on August 1.

The refusal of London and Paris to go along with the arms embargo could have caused the collapse of all EU sanctions against Syria, embarrassing the EU and handing a victory to Assad. EU ministers managed to avert that by agreeing to reinstate all of the restrictions except for the arms embargo on the rebels.

EU sanctions on Syria that will remain in place include asset freezes and travel bans on Assad and senior Syrian officials, as well as curbs on trade, infrastructure projects and the transport sector.

London and Paris have argued for months that Europe must send a strong signal of support for rebels fighting Assad by allowing EU arms deliveries, even though they say they have not decided yet to actually supply arms.

But they ran into strong opposition from other EU governments, led by Austria and Sweden, which argued that sending more weapons to the region would increase violence and spread instability.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the EU meeting had effectively ended the EU’s arms embargo on the Syrian opposition.

“While we have no immediate plans to send arms to Syria, it gives us the flexibility to respond in the future if the situation continues to deteriorate,” Hague told reporters.

SWAYING THE CONFLICT

London and Paris were seeking to increase the opposition’s leverage in planned U.S. and Russian co-sponsored peace talks expected next month by raising the prospect they could supply arms to the rebels if the political process made no headway.

The debate has gained urgency because of military gains by Assad’s troops and allegations of chemical weapons use.

French newspaper Le Monde published first-hand accounts on Monday of Syrian forces loyal to Assad having repeatedly used chemical weapons against rebel fighters in Damascus.

But while a number of member states softened their opposition to amending the EU arms embargo and said they could back a compromise, Britain was unyielding in the talks, diplomats said.

“The British didn’t give an inch,” one diplomat said.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said he regretted it had not been possible to find a compromise with Britain and France.

Spindelegger said the Austrian government would now discuss what to do about its 380 soldiers patrolling the U.N. ceasefire line on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria. Vienna has said in the past it might have to pull them out if the arms embargo was eased.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, sought to repair any damage to the bloc’s image, saying Monday’s decision did not mean the EU has lost the capacity to “have a common policy.”

“What it does mean is there is a recognition that in trying to establish how best to support the people of Syria, countries will want to make some decisions (on their own),” she told reporters.

Even if Britain and France decide to supply arms to the rebels, they will have to authorize any shipments on a case-by-case basis and follow safeguards to ensure no equipment lands in the wrong hands.

(Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, Claire Davenport, Rex Merrifield in Brussels, Yesim Dikmen in Istanbul; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Bill Trott)

Israel grants Golan Heights exploration licence to Murdoch, Cheney, Rothschild energy firm

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/471a183a-7c28-11e2-bf52-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2T4Ycejdj

 

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Israel has granted a US company a licence to explore for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights in a move likely to stir diplomatic controversy ahead of next month’s visit to the region by President Barack Obama.

The country’s energy ministry confirmed on Thursday that it had given the exploration licence to a local subsidiary of Genie Energy, a New York-listed company whose shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch. Dick Cheney, the former US vice-president, is an adviser.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six day war in 1967, but its occupation of the territory is not recognised under international law.

Although the territory has been largely peaceful since 1967, as Syria’s civil war has intensified Israeli officials have expressed concern that Damascus is deliberately seeking to draw Israel into the conflict. Late last year Israeli soldiers fired tank shells across the border after stray mortars landed in the Golan.

Some analysts have linked the timing of the licence award to the situation in Syria. Yaron Ezrahi, an Israeli political analyst, said: “This action is mostly political – it’s an attempt to deepen Israeli commitment to the occupied Golan Heights. The timing is directly related to the fact that the Syrian government is dealing with violence and chaos and is not free to deal with this problem.”

Genie competed for the drilling licence against an unnamed second company which Globes, the Israeli financial newspaper, identified as Ultra Equity Investments.

In accordance with Israel’s petroleum law, the exploration licence covers just under 400 square kilometres. “We applied for an oil and gas exploration licence which may entail drilling,” the US company said on Thursday. “We received notice of the licence yesterday.”

Genie already has an oil exploration and production licence in the Shfela region of central Israel, and a joint venture with Total to produce shale oil in Colorado.

A person close to the process, who asked not to be named, said that the company had submitted its application in August last year, and that the second company applied later.

Genie won the bid based on geological, professional and other criteria, this person said. Details of its bid are not publicly available.

Mr Obama is due to visit Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jordan in late March, at a time when Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is under growing diplomatic pressure over its expansion of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Recent natural gas finds off Israel’s coast in the Mediterranean have promised to transform the Jewish state into a significant energy power in its region.

The Tamar natural gasfield, which is due to begin producing in the second quarter of this year, is expected to contribute a percentage point to Israel’s projected 3.8 per cent growth in gross domestic product this year. Israel’s offshore gas reserve is one of the largest of its kind in the world and its potential output will greatly exceed Israel’s domestic needs, making the country an energy exporter.

The companies exploiting Tamar and the larger Leviathan field, Noble Energy and Delek Energy, have recently contacted potential customers in Turkey and Jordan who might be interested in taking gas via pipelines.

 

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