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China set to build strategic railway in Israel, gas export deal may follow

By Cong Mu (Global Times)

08:15, July 05, 2012

Israeli Minister of Transport & Road Safety Israel Katz gave his vote of confidence to Chinese transportation construction companies Wednesday, after signing a strategic memorandum of understanding (MOU) with his Chinese counterpart in the capital city on Tuesday.

According to the MOU between the Chinese Ministry of Transport and the Israeli Ministry of Transport, the State-owned China Communications Construction Company has been chosen by the Chinese government to build a 350-kilometer high-speed railway linking Tel Aviv near the Mediterranean and Port of Eilat on the Red Sea, with a designated speed of 250-300 kilometers an hour, Katz told reporters at the Israeli Embassy in Beijing.

"We've found a lot of gas in Israel, and maybe it can be a base of discussions. There are some discussions about exporting the gas to China," Katz told the Global Times, noting that the railway may be related to future Sino-Israel energy cooperation.

The railway has strategic significance because it will also provide a land-based passage for Chinese cargo to Europe, in addition to the Suez Canal, Zhang Le, China program coordinator for the US-based non-profit Israel Project, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The Israeli government is still open to proposals by other countries before October, when the project is set to start, but Katz said he was "optimistic" about the Chinese companies' capabilities, during his second visit to China within a year.

China's Minister of Transport Li Shenglin said during his meeting with Katz on Tuesday that the signing of the MOU would set "a new stage" for cooperation between the transportation companies of the two countries, according to a statement published on the Chinese ministry's official website Wednesday.

Katz said that he was looking forward to more cooperation with China in terms of transportation infrastructure building, including port and airport construction.

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