Photo Credit: Sara Yahimovich/TPS
A view on the Mediterranean Sea from the cliff of Rosh HaNikra nature reserve, in the Western Galilee, Northern Israel. Rosh HaNikra, Sep 15, 2018.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Gilad Erdan dispatched a missive over the weekend to UN Secretary-General António Guterres after the Lebanese government issued a tender inviting international companies to compete for developing gas fields in Israel’s sovereign maritime territory.

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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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.

This latest letter joins a series of inquiries sent by Erdan to the Guterres on the subject in recent months, after the Lebanese government repeatedly tried to take unilateral measures in the maritime territories in question, while US-sponsored negotiations are underway to reach an understanding on the maritime border.

The talks are being mediated by the US and hosted by ​the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL) at Rosh Hanikra.

In his letter, Erdan conveyed the Israeli government’s official opposition to any Lebanese activity without its consent.

“Israel objects to any unauthorized economic activity by Lebanon in this area, including, inter alia, the granting of rights by Lebanon to any third party, drilling, or the search for natural resources in maritime areas where Israel asserts sovereign rights or jurisdiction,” the letter states.

Israel called on the Lebanese government to withdraw the tender immediately and to refrain from any step that would promote any non-agreed activity in maritime areas under Israeli sovereignty.

“Israel reiterates its call on all relevant third parties to respect Israel’s position and to refrain from participating or promoting any action that could jeopardize Israel’s rights, as well as to refrain from any other involvement in non-consensual economic activity in Israeli maritime areas. Such activity threatens to expose third parties to significant liability,” Erdan warned.

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