Lebanon ready to work with Cyprus on offshore gas potential

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, right, and his Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bou Habib talk on Friday when they met at the Foreign Ministry in Nicosia, Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus – Lebanon is ready to work with Cyprus to exploit potential gas deposits in the waters between the two eastern Mediterranean countries, the head of Lebanese diplomacy said on Friday, even if an agreement on offshore rights n hasn’t been officially finalized.

Cyprus and Lebanon signed an agreement delimiting their respective offshore exclusive economic zones in 2007, but Lebanon’s parliament has yet to ratify it amid the country’s ongoing maritime border dispute with Israel.

Nevertheless, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart in Nicosia that “with Cyprus there is no problem, once we find gas we are ready to implement it”.

“We talked about it and I can assure you that Lebanon is ready to do it,” Bou Habib said.

The Lebanese top diplomat’s remarks come as Europe seeks new energy sources to wean itself off Russian gas in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Cyprus has issued exploration drilling licenses to ExxonMobil and its partner Qatar Petroleum, a consortium made up of the French energy company Total and the Italian Eni, as well as to Chevron and its partner Shell, on most of its 13 segments in its Exclusive Economic Zone off its southern coast.

To the north, Cyprus faces an intense challenge from Turkey which claims much of the island’s EEZ and has sent research vessels escorted by warships to the area – earning the condemnation of the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member.

Cyprus was divided along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded Turkey following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The secessionist Turkish Cypriot north is only recognized by Turkey.

Lebanese Bou Habib said a written US mediation proposal submitted earlier this year aimed at resolving the Lebanese-Israeli dispute, while much better than previous attempts, is “not yet sufficient”.

He said the Lebanese government and its lawmakers are “all in agreement” on what they want from a deal with Israel.

“Therefore, the response to the Americans would hopefully be soon and it would be a response,” Bou Habib said.

Any discovery in Lebanon’s own economic zone would be a long-term boon to the embattled economy of the beleaguered country.

Lebanon’s economic crisis has been described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since the 1850s. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs since October 2019 and the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value. value.

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