Following the arrival of a ship off the shore to generate gas for Israel, Beirut cautioned Israel over any “aggressive action” in contested waters. Both countries want to generate coastal energy in the seas under dispute.
Any operation in the contested waters, according to Lebanese President, is an aggressive act and incites potential instabilities. Michel Aoun’s remarks were made upon the arrival of Energean’s natural gas storage and production ship.
The area in controversy, according to Israel, is located within Israel’s economic territory, not in disputed waters. However, the Lebanese president office announced in a statement that Aoun spoke with interim Prime Minister on the issue. The content of conversation with Mikati was the vessel’s incursion into Israel’s contested maritime zone. Aoun asked “the Army Command to provide him with accurate and official data to build upon the matter.”
Discussions to define the southern waters borderline, according to Aoun, are still ongoing. As a result, any act or operation in the territory under dispute constitutes a provocative move and a hostile act.
The Israeli administration did not respond to Aoun‘s comments right away. The Israeli Energy Minister greeted the vessel’s entry and expressed her hope that it will be operational soon. “We will continue to work to diversify the energy market and maintain stability and reliability,” she asserted.
Energean’s subsea production storage and unloading vessel landed in the Karish region two days ago, according to the company officials. The Field is claimed as located in Israel’s exclusive economic zone, roughly 50 miles away from Haifa in the west. It is expected to become operational in few months, according to the corporation.
“Israel is encroaching on Lebanon’s maritime wealth and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area,” Mikati warned. It is “extremely dangerous” according to the caretaker prime minister.
Mikati was referring to a potential escalation of tensions at the military level as a consequence of Israeli moves. Lebanon reserves the right for exploitation of energy from southern waters. It, nevertheless, called off any operation until the resolution of rights dispute with Israel to avoid tension.
22 years earlier, at the turn of the century, the US undertook facilitating indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel. The goal was to resolve a long-standing feud between arch-enemies that had stymied energy projects in east Mediterranean region. Lebanon houses the tenacious Hezbollah movement, which has battled Israel in many conflicts.
Hezbollah has repeatedly urged Israel not to start exploration for oil and gas in the disputed waters until the settlement of the conflict. The organization has stated that Tel Aviv would face tough action in case it took other strategies.
Both sides have claims to their disputed waters, submitted to the United Nations. Lebanon claims that their boundary cuts into the sea at a more southerly angle. Tel Aviv’s claim extends further north, forming a contested triangle.
Beirut increased its claim by roughly 540 square miles in 2021, extending the region in dispute with Israel. Lebanon has provided no response to a proposition by a US ambassador to restart the stalled negotiations earlier this year. The content of the proposition is not published.
In a media talk last week after a visit to Washington, a prominent Lebanese security officer stated that Beirut’s response would pave the way for a resumption of those negotiations. Abbas Ibrahim emphasized that the US was eager to “turn the page” on a potentially explosive matter.