Spain, Israel plan to work on infrastructure projects

Jerusalem, Dec 24 (IANS/EFE) Spanish Development Minister Ana Pastor Sunday opened the door to Spanish businesses and experts to participate in big infrastructure projects that Israel will put up for bidding in the near future at a total cost of more than 10 billion euros ($13.2 billion).

Expansion of ports, electrification of railroad lines, new highways, tunnels and even the construction of a mixed high-speed train line between the Mediterranean and Red Seas are some of the projects to which Spanish firms will aspire after the signing Sunday of a technical cooperation agreement between the two countries.

"This accord is milestone in the relations between Israel and Spain and opens the doors for our firms and our experts to be able to cooperate and participate in this transformation that is under way in Israel in the infrastructure area," said the minister at a press conference in the port of Ashdod.

Pastor emphasized the capacity of Spanish companies and engineers in all kinds of projects, and she said that the "institutional framework" had been created to broaden their participation.

A few hours later, in Jerusalem, Pastor inked the accord with her Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, who had visited Spain last May to become familiar with similar projects that had already been completed.

Currently, via INECO, the public engineering firm that operates under the aegis of the development minister, Spain is participating in more than 18 design projects in Israel.

The Spanish government is interested in broadening its participation and, in particular, in becoming involved in the most important of the Israeli projects that will be launched during 2013, the high-speed rail line between Beersheba, the main city in the Negev Desert, and the port of Eilat, a stretch of track 350 km long from Tel Aviv that would connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea.

The Israeli government, which will spend some 3 billion euros (about $4 billion) on the construction of the rail line, must decide who will help with the project from among a group of international consortia including one from France and another from China, which are the main rivals of Spanish firms in this.

--IANS/EFE

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