Lebanon to expand claim over disputed maritime area with Israel | Business and economic news
Lebanon’s acting Minister of Public Works and Transport said he signed a document extending Lebanon’s claims in its maritime border dispute with Israel.
The amendment, announced on Monday, adds about 1,400 km2 (540 square miles) to the exclusive economic zone claimed by Lebanon in its original submission to the United Nations.
The document must now be signed by the acting Prime Minister of Lebanon, the Minister of Defense and the President before being submitted to the United Nations for a formal request to register the new contact details for the region.
“I expect it to be signed because everyone, the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister and the President are concerned about this,” Transport Minister Michel Najjar said at a press conference .
“We will not give up any inch of our homeland, nor a drop of its waters, nor an inch of its dignity.”
Negotiations between old enemies, Lebanon and Israel, were launched in October in an attempt to resolve the dispute over their maritime border, which has delayed exploration for hydrocarbons in the potentially gas-rich area.
The talks, the culmination of three years of Washington’s diplomacy, have since stalled.
The negotiations were the first insecure talks to be held between the two countries, which lack diplomatic ties after decades of conflict. Solving the border issue could pave the way for lucrative oil and gas deals on both sides.
Tensions in the Mediterranean
Israel is already pumping gas from huge offshore fields, but Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Lebanon’s latest move would derail talks rather than help work towards a common solution.
“Lebanese unilateral measures will, of course, receive parallel measures from Israel,” he said in a statement.
Lebanon, mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, is seeking to settle the maritime border dispute so that it can continue its offshore quest for oil and gas.
The search for hydrocarbons has already increased tensions in the eastern Mediterranean following repeated Turkish exploration and drilling operations in waters claimed by Cyprus and Greece.
The armed movement Hezbollah, a major force in Lebanese politics, had criticized the maritime talks.
Israel and Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006, and the two sides continue to exchange sporadic cross-border fire.