Alwaght- Lebanon's President warned Israel against the regime's “extremely dangerous” bid to explore oil and gas on his country's maritime border, saying the Arab country will not allow any violation of its territorial waters.
Michel Aoun’s warning came a day after Israel approved a license for oil and gas exploration in “Block 72,” located close to the Block 9 gas fields, where Beirut is set to begin explorations for natural gas and oil soon.
“Block 72” sits along the disputed 860-kilometer line of waters that separate the Lebanese from Israeli-held territories.
“This will complicate the situation further as Lebanon will not allow any violations of its internationally-recognized territorial waters, especially in the Exclusive Economic Zone where Block 9 — which will be explored by Lebanon within a month — is located,” Aoun said Monday.
The Lebanese president further called for the country’s Supreme Defense Council to meet on Tuesday to discuss the development at the southern border.
Lebanese lawmaker Kassem Hachem described the Israeli decision as “piracy” and a “declaration of war” on Lebanon, calling for action at “all levels” to “put an end to these aggressive intentions on our homeland.”
Israel relies heavily on gas and has long been developing a number of offshore gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea.
Reportedly, Israel had been avoiding granting licenses for the exploration of Block 72, fearing it could lead to a new conflict with Lebanon.
In February 2018, Lebanon said it had signed gas exploration and production contracts for two energy blocks, including Block 9, with a consortium of France’s Total, Italian Eni and Russia's Novatek oil and gas companies.
The two sides nearly came to blows over Beirut’s offshore oil and gas exploration projects.
Back in December 2017, Beirut had granted licenses to a consortium of three international companies to carry out exploratory drilling in Lebanon’s Block 4 and Block 9 and determine whether they contain oil and gas reserves.
Israeli authorities, who claim sovereignty over Block 9, reacted angrily to the announcement.
In January, Israel signed a deal with Greece and Cyprus to build a pipeline channeling natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, despite objections from Turkey.
Israel and Lebanon have further been engaged in a rift over Israel’s occupation of Shebaa Farms, a small strip of land at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the Golan Heights.