Photo Credit: Nati Shohat /Flash90
A view of the sea at Rosh Hanika, the border between Israel and Lebanon.

Israel’s negotiating team for the maritime border with Lebanon met over the weekend with Amos Hochstein, the Biden administration’s Special Envoy for International Energy, who is currently serving as a mediator between the two countries.

The common Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary is not agreed upon between the two countries. The issue has been under discussion for over a decade. The focus of both sides is the oil and gas discoveries in the territorial waters which are under dispute.

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The Israeli team heard an update on the mediator’s recent visit to Lebanon, and the parties discussed “formulating constructive directions to move forward in negotiations while preserving Israel’s economic and security interests and with a view to summarizing the issue in the near future,” a spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Energy stated.

In recent years, the two countries have held talks, mediated by the US and hosted by ​the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL) at Rosh Hanikra.

Lebanon is reportedly demanding additional 1,460 square kilometers from Israel’s economic water, in addition to the 860 square kilometers on which the discussions are already focusing. The new Lebanese demand means they are claiming ownership of the Karish gas field and Block 72, where Israel plans to enable further drilling for gas.

The Greek Energean Oil and Gas plc., which holds the development rights to the Karish field situated off Israel’s northern coast, announced earlier this month that its floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) rig Energean Power has reached its docking point 80 kilometers from the coast of Israel after traveling from Singapore.

In response, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun warned that Israel’s operation to drill for gas at the Karish offshore gas field “constitutes a provocation and a hostile act” that may generate a significant crisis.

“Negotiations to demarcate the southern maritime borders are still ongoing, and any action or activity in the disputed area constitutes a provocation and a hostile act,” he stated.

The Lebanese Hezbollah terror organization also warned Israel against developing the gas fields in its maritime border zone in the north before agreeing on the exact border demarcation with Lebanon.

Responding to the Lebanese claims, Israel stated that the Karish rig is “a strategic asset of the State of Israel and is intended to extract the energy resources and natural gas in the State of Israel’s Economic Zone and to advance Israel’s ‘green economy.’”

The Karish rig is anchored definitively within Israel’s territorial waters in the Mediterranean, several kilometers to the south of the area disputed by Lebanon, and Israel will definitely not pump gas out from the disputed territory,” it clarified.

 

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.