President Michel Aoun says any effort by Israelis to exploit natural gas deposits in disputed waters would be an ‘aggressive action’
A battle over Mediterranean waters rich in natural gas deposits erupted on Sunday when Lebanese President Michel Aoun warned Israel that trying to exploit offshore wealth without first resolving a territorial dispute would be seen as a “provocation.”
“Any action or activity in the disputed area represents provocation and aggressive action”, Aoun said in a statement on Sunday. He made the comments after a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel arrived in the disputed area, where London-based upstream company Energean plans to start pumping gas from the field. of Karish under a contract with the Israeli government later this year.
Aoun said he discussed the arrival of the FPSO with Prime Minister Najib Mikati and asked the Lebanese army command to provide him with “accurate and official data to back up the issue.” Mikati called the situation “extremely dangerous” saying that Israel was trying to “creating a new crisis, encroaching on Lebanon’s maritime wealth and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area”.
Karish is located about 90 km west of Haifa, near the much larger gas fields of Leviathan and Tamar, and it holds reserves estimated at more than 300 million barrels of oil equivalent. Energean signed a contract in March to sell production from Karish to Israel Electric Co., Israel’s biggest buyer of gas.
Jerusalem claimed that Karish is located in Israel’s exclusive economic zone, as recognized by the United Nations, and is not subject to the country’s territorial dispute with Lebanon. Aoun said negotiations to resolve the issue were continuing and the two countries had filed disputes with the UN over their overlapping maritime claims.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group has threatened to take action if Israel extracts fossil fuels in the disputed area without resolving the territorial standoff.
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