Athens, Greece – Six states signed a charter for an Egypt-based energy forum on Tuesday, giving formal status to a group that seeks to promote natural gas exports from the Eastern Mediterranean and that Israel hopes will strengthen ties with Arab neighbors.

Egypt, Israel, Greece, the GCA, Italy and Jordan established the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) as an intergovernmental organization in a virtual ceremony hosted by Egypt.

The group unites regional rivals of Turkey, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with European Union members Greece and the GCA over gas drilling rights in the region.

The Palestinian Authority is also part of the forum, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.

France has applied to join, with the United States and European Union requesting observer status.

For Israel, the forum “brings regional cooperation with Arab and European countries, the first of its kind in history, with contracts to export (Israeli) gas to Jordan and Egypt worth $30 billion, and that is just the beginning,” added Steinitz.