Netanyahu signs secrecy order to conceal Iran’s legal battle against Israel

TEHRAN (FNA)- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly opposed the revealing of any information about the “oil arbitration” case that has been conducted by Iran against Israel in European courts for more than 20 years.

Netanyahu signed a secrecy order in November 2013 banning the publication of information on the oil arbitration, because it could possibly bring about harm to Tel Aviv’s security and foreign relations, Haaretz reported.

The National Iranian Oil Company has been conducting a number of international arbitration proceedings against Israel. It has demanded compensation for its share of the joint Israeli-Iranian project for transporting and selling Iranian oil, via Israel to European customers, which was launched in 1968 under the overthrown Pahlavi regime. At the heart of the deal stood the construction of a trans-Israel pipeline from Eilat to Ashkelon, as well as two oil storage facilities and a fleet of tankers.

The oil terminal in Eilat that once carried Iranian oil to Ashkelon for export to European markets.

The deal was hidden by a veil of secrecy, and Israel imposed censorship on any publication concerning the pipeline, its financing and operation.

A similar, smaller arbitration suit concerns a debt from the sale of Iranian oil to three Israeli fuel companies in 1979, on the eve of the Islamic Revolution. The arbitration suits are estimated to be for billions of dollars, given the interest and other costs that have accumulated over the decades.

After the Shah of Iran was deposed in January 1979, Tehran cut its relations with Tel Aviv. Israel continued to operate the pipeline, after nationalizing it in practice using a legal trick, and Iran sued Israel in an international arbitration process to receive its share of the profits of the joint venture.

Israel has lost a number of rounds in the arbitration, first in France and more recently in Swiss courts, where it tried to stop the arbitration process and avoid paying any money.

Under the terms of the agreement, whose full content has yet to be made public, Israel agreed to grant the oil project a 49-year concession, exemption from taxes and planning, and building leeway. Censorship was imposed on press reports relating to the pipeline, its funding and sources of fuel. The project was implemented in record time: by the end of 1969, oil was flowing through the pipeline. Israel built a second refinery in Ashdod and storage tanks at both ends of the pipeline.

Netanyahu’s exceptional intervention, in an attempt to prevent the exposure of information on the arbitration, was part of a growing effort during his term to disguise Israel’s involvement in the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC), as well as the company’s corporate structure and operations. But the legal proceedings in Israel and abroad, as well as historical research and the memories of many of those involved decades ago, have allowed the exposure of the legal and organizational means Israel has used to control EAPC.

In December, a Swiss arbitration panel ruled that the Islamic Republic of Iran deserved to be compensated for the loss of its stake in a joint pipeline after the country’s 1979 revolution.

The preliminary ruling, which comes after two decades of arbitration, would pay the value of a 50% stake in the Iran Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company. But the ruling, which could grant Iran between $50mln and $100mln, is still far from being final.

By Fars News Agency


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