It's Israel Vs Lebanon And Hezbollah In Escalating Dispute Over Mediterranean Gas Field

Submitted by Leith Fadel via Al-Masdar News,

The eastern Mediterranean gas field that has been put up for tender by Lebanon and is expected to be developed by an international consortium of energy companies, belongs to Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday. "They [Lebanon] are announcing a tender on the gas field, including Block 9, which is ours by any definition," Lieberman said at a conference in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli minister said that the respectable companies participating in the tender were making a major mistake, as their involvement in the project contradicts current rules and practices, calling Lebanese actions in the eastern Mediterranean "very, very challenging and provocative conduct here."

Image via Al Arabiya

Lieberman said further that, "Respectable firms" bidding on the tender "are, to my mind, making a grave error - because this is contrary to all of the rules and all protocol in cases like this." His remarks were made before an international security conference at a Tel Aviv University national security conference.

In December, the Lebanese government approved provisions for the right to explore two energy blocks, namely Block 4 and Block 9, in Lebanon to the consortium of Russia’s Novatek natural gas producer with France’s Total and Italy’s Eni. Lebanon launched its first oil and gas production licensing auction in January 2017, opening five of ten of its Mediterranean blocks up for international bids.

Lebanon launched its first oil and gas production licensing auction in January 2017, opening five of ten of its Mediterranean blocks (above) up for international bids. Source: Lebanese Petroleum Administration 

Disputed area above. Israel announced this week that "Block 9 is ours by definition" in a disputed area which also includes Lebanon's claims on Blocks 8 and 10. Map source: Tekmor Monitor

Lebanon, together with Israel, Cyprus and Egypt, sits on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean, where new gas fields have been revealed in 2009. However, two Lebanese offshore blocks now lie within a triangle of maritime territory claimed by Israel.

Meanwhile, Lebanon is standing its ground against Israel after the latter recently indicated its interest in oil and gas exploration in Lebanese territorial waters. "Lebanon will use all available methods to fend off the Israeli aggression that was announced today," Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said on Wednesday.

Furthermore, Lebanese President Michel ‘Aoun slammed the Israeli threats on Block 9, vowing to defend the country’s territorial waters. The issue about the gas and oil exploration first became public with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's prior statements claiming Block 9 as Israel’s property. The Lebanese government will likely continue to respond aggressively to this economic threat and has refused to concede the interest to Israel.

And Hezbollah also weighed in on Wednesday, with its media relations wing releasing a statement that condemned the Israeli Defense Minister’s claims that Block 9 oil and gas belonged to Israel.

"The remarks of the Minister of War in the government of the Zionist enemy, Avigdor Lieberman, is a new expression of the continuing Israeli ambitions for Lebanon’s wealth, land and water, and it falls within the framework of the policy of aggression against Lebanon and its sovereignty and legitimate rights," the Hezbollah statement read.

“We express our support for the positions of Lebanon’s heads of state and other Lebanese officials against this new aggression. We reiterate our firm and unequivocal position to fiercely confronting any aggression on our oil and gas rights, thus defending Lebanon’s assets and protecting its wealth," the statement concluded.