Beirut (The Times Groupe)- After Israel’s gas-producing ship arrived off the coast of Lebanon, the country warned against any “aggressive action” in disputed waters where both countries would like to develop offshore energy.
The Lebanese 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).
The field in question is within Israel’s exclusive economic zone, not in disputed waters.
However, the presidency said Aoun discussed the vessel’s entry with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and requested accurate and official data from the Army Command to build on the matter”.
In addition, Aoun noted that negotiations to demarcate the southern maritime border continue, and any activity or action in the disputed area is considered provocative and aggressive”.
The Israeli government did not respond immediately to Aoun’s statement. Karine Elharrar, Israel’s energy minister, welcomed the arrival of the vessel and hoped it could be brought online quickly.
“We will continue to diversify the energy market and keep it stable and reliable,” she said.
Earlier this week, Energy said its floating production storage and offloading vessel arrived at the Karish field, about 80 kilometers west of Haifa in Israel’s exclusive economic zone. The company says it will be operational by the end of the third quarter.
Mikati said Israel was “encroaching on Lebanon’s maritime wealth, and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area”, calling the situation “extremely dangerous”.
In 2000, the United States began mediating indirect talks between the sides to resolve a long-standing dispute between old foes that obstructed energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. Hizbollah, which is heavily armed and backed by Iran, has fought numerous wars with Israel in Lebanon.
Hizbollah has previously warned Israel not to drill for oil and gas in the disputed area until the issue is resolved, saying that it would take action if it did.
Israel and Lebanon have both made claims at the United Nations regarding their maritime borders. Israel’s claim runs farther north and Lebanon’s runs farther south, creating a triangle of disputed waters.