Israel rejects settling disputed maritime border, says Lebanon president

Lebanon's Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, explains on the map about the offshore block 9 which Israel claims, during an interview with the Associated Press at his office, in Beirut, Lebanon, February 1, 2018. (Hussein Malla/AP)
Lebanon’s Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, explains on the map about the offshore block 9 which Israel claims, during an interview with the Associated Press at his office, in Beirut, Lebanon, February 1, 2018. (Hussein Malla/AP)

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Tuesday that Israel refused to agree a final maritime border between the two countries, a month after Lebanon began exploring for its first offshore oil and gas reserves.

Lebanon has an unresolved maritime border with Israel that involves a triangular area of sea of around 860 square kilometres (330 square miles). The area extends along the edge of three of its 10 offshore energy blocks.

In February, Lebanon signed its first exploration and production agreements for offshore Blocks 4 and 9 with a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek.

Block 9 contains an area of water claimed by both Israel and Lebanon, but the consortium has said it has no plans to drill in the disputed part.

“Israel still refuses the demarcation of the maritime borders near the Exclusive Economic Zone where exploration for oil and gas has begun,” Aoun said on Twitter.

Lebanon, which began its first offshore exploration in May, is on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean, where a number of big sub-sea gas fields have been discovered since 2009 in Cypriot, Israeli and Egyptian waters.

U.S. officials have been mediating between Lebanon and Israel about the maritime border dispute.

Israel’s energy minister said earlier this month that new ideas proposed in the U.S. back-channel mediation raise the prospect of a partial deal this year.

REUTERS