Lebanon warns Israel against gas production in disputed waters

Lebanon warns Israeli against gas production in disputed waters
President Michel Aoun

Lebanon has warned Israel against any aggressive action in disputed waters where both states hope to develop offshore energy, after a ship arrived off the coast to produce gas for Israel.

President Michel Aoun said any activity in the disputed area would amount to an act of aggression and a provocation, after the arrival of the natural gas storage and production ship operated by London-based Energean ENOG.L.

Israel said the field in question is within its exclusive economic zone, and not in disputed waters.

But in a statement weekend, the Lebanese government said Aoun discussed with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati the vessel’s entry into the disputed maritime area with Israel, and asked the Army Command to provide him with data on the development. 

Aoun said negotiations to delineate the southern maritime border continued and any action or activity in the disputed area represents a provocation and an aggressive action.

However, Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar welcomed the vessel’s arrival. 

“We will continue to work to diversify the energy market and maintain stability and reliability,” she said.

Energean said its floating production storage and offloading vessel arrived on Sunday at the Karish field, about 80km west of the city of Haifa, in Israel’s exclusive economic zone. The company said it planned to bring it online in the third quarter.

The United States began mediating in direct talks between Israel and Lebanon in 2000 to settle a long-running dispute between old foes that has obstructed energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. Lebanon is home to the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah group, which has fought numerous wars with Israel.

Hezbollah has previously warned Israel against drilling for oil and gas in the disputed area until the issue is resolved, and said the group would take action if it did so.

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