Lebanon warns Israel against “aggressive” action on disputed waters

BEIRUT (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Lebanon warned Israel against any “aggressive action” in disputed waters after the arrival of a ship off the coast to produce gas for Israel. These disputed waters are where both countries intend to explore offshore energy.

After the arrival of the production ship and natural gas storage run by Energean (London- based), President Michel Aoun announced that any activity in the disputed territory would be considered an act of provocation and aggression. 

According to Israel, the field in question is not located in disputed waters but within its exclusive economic zone.

The President of Lebanon said  in a statement on Sunday that Aoun reviewed the vessel’s entry into the contentious maritime area with Israel, and asked the Army Command to give him correct and official information to build upon the issue  with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

Negotiations to define the southern maritime border are still ongoing, according to Aoun, and any activity or action in the disputed area was a provocation and an aggressive action.

The Israeli administration, however, did not straightaway respond to this statement. Karine Elharrar, Energy Minister of Israel, welcomed the arrival of the vessel and expressed she was hopeful that it would soon be operational. 

She stated that they would continue to endeavour to diversify the energy market while keeping up the reliability and stability. 

Energean said its floating production storage and unloading vessel came to the Karish field in the exclusive economic zone of Israel on Sunday, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Haifa. The expectation is for it to go online in the third quarter, according to the company. 

Israel was encroaching on the maritime wealth of Lebanon and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed territory, said Mikati, who said the situation was extremely dangerous.

In the 2000, the US started as a mediator between the two countries to resolve a long-running disagreement between old enemies that had become a hurdle in exploring energy in the eastern Mediterranean. Lebanon shelters the Iran-backed Hezbollah organisation, which has fought Israel in several conflicts.

Hezbollah has previously cautioned Israel against exploring for oil and gas in the disputed area until the dispute is addressed, threatening to retaliate if it does so.

Both Lebanon and Israel have asserted claims to their maritime borders in the UN.

Lebanon claims its boundary cuts into the sea at a sharper angle to the south, while Israel claims the area to the north, forming a triangle of disputed waters.