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Palestinians' deputy prime minister for economic affairs Mohammad Mustafa

The Palestinian Authority has announced plans to explore the West Bank for oil, adding to the uncertainly related to peace efforts in the region.

Palestinians’ deputy prime minister for economic affairs Mohammad Mustafa said the Palestinians were seeking proposals from international firms to explore and develop oil in the northern West Bank.

He stated the project was part of a series of initiatives drawn up by Mideast envoy Tony Blair to help develop the Palestinian economy.

“The Palestinian people have the right to use their resources,” said Mustafa.

According to a map released by the Palestinians, the exploration area covers more than 155 square miles in a strip of land along the frontier with Israel.

Currently, the vast majority of this land is controlled  by Israel.

Mustafa also announced that initial studies have indicated the exploration area may hold oil reserves of 30 million to 186 million barrels.

He said the project could generate proceeds of roughly $1 billion for the Palestinian government.

The government will accept bids from potential partners through June.

“The existence of oil in Palestine is a highly promising opportunity for the Palestinian economy,” said Mustafa.