Visiting Russians are seeking cooperation in energy, space
Gazprom wants to open a local subsidiary that will engage in drilling and offshore and onshore pipeline operations.
Natural gas, aerospace, oil shale and tourism are among the areas of economic cooperation that Russian President Vladimir Putin is offering Israel during his visit this week, sources told TheMarker.
The most important item raised between Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday was an offer by Russia's state-owned energy company Gazprom to join in developing Israel's offshore gas reserves. The largest extractor of natural gas in the world and Russia's biggest company, Gazprom wants to open a local subsidiary that will engage in drilling and offshore and onshore pipeline operations.
On the Israeli side, no one has rejected the Gazprom offer out of hand and officials are willing to explore the proposals, the sources said. Future international tenders in the Israeli gas sector will be open to Gazprom.
In fact, Gazprom executives have been to Israel in the past to explore cooperation in gas and won a tender to produce gasoline from oil shale in Israel's south, for which it expects to begin operations soon, the Russian delegation said. They also expressed interest in developing alternative energy projects, mainly in solar and to a lesser extent in wind.
The two countries did about $660 million of bilateral trade in the first four months of this year, with Israeli exports to Russia reaching $384 million and imports from Russia at $277 million, according to the Israel Export Institute.
Another area of interest to the Russians is nanotechnology, where the two countries have signed cooperation agreements. The sources said the Russian state-owned nanotechnology company Rusnano, which has been funded by Moscow to the tune of billions of dollars, has recently opened an Israeli unit whose task will be to identify Israeli companies for acquisition and cooperation.
Rusnano's chairman, Anatoly Chubais, is part of the delegation accompanying Putin to Israel.
The delegation also includes the incoming chairman of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, signaling the country's interest in cooperation in aerospace as well.
"Israeli and Russian capabilities in aerospace complement one another," said one of the sources, pointing to Russia's expertise in launching satellites, as Israel is regarded a world leader in miniature satellites and other technologies.
In agriculture, the two sides are exploring joint ventures in irrigation, hothouses and the development of seeds for increasing farm yields.
Israel expressed interest in developing tourism. Russia is the biggest source of visitors to Israel after the United States, with about half a million tourists arriving every year. They create about 20,000 jobs and bring in revenues to Israel of $1 billion annually.
The two sides also began talks about establishing a free trade area agreement, which would ease two-way trade. They also plan to sign a financial protocol that will provide guarantees on exports to Russia via the government trade insurance agency.