Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday that Lebanon cannot be used as a “base to conspire or to be in a state of enmity with any Arab country and will therefore continue to hold onto its policy of dissociating itself from the developments in Syria, urging the business community in Paris to increase its investments in Lebanon, National News Agency reported.
He also said that French officials, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy “completely understand the Lebanese political geographic circumstances.”
Mikati, who is currently on an official two-day visit to France, voiced the importance of the “strength of relations” between France and Lebanon, adding that it is important to improve bilateral relations in all fields.
The PM is scheduled to meet with Sarkozy later today, the report said, adding that he will also meet with his French counterpart François Fillon and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.
oil and gas
Mikati said that the crisis in Syria shouldn’t affect Lebanon and focused instead during his discussions with the business leaders on the future of Lebanon as a gas and oil producer .
“I want to tell you that you are in front of an opportunity for investment in a country that relies on the market economy , respects the private sector, trains qualified work forces, guarantees low taxes, applies banking secrecy and enjoys rotation of political power,” Mikati , who was accompanied by Central bank chief Riad Salameh said during a meeting with Mouvement des entreprises de France (MEDEF)
In January, the cabinet endorsed plans to implement legislation that will clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration, downplaying the risk of conflict with Israel, despite a dispute over the maritime border.
Last August the parliament passed a law setting Lebanon’s maritime boundary and Exclusive Economic Zone, as it has previously submitted to the United Nations a maritime map that conflicts significantly with one proposed by Israel.
Lebanon argues its map is in line with an armistice accord drawn up in 1949, an agreement which is not contested by Israel.
The disputed zone consists of about 854 square kilometers and suspected energy reserves there could generate billions of dollars.
Lebanon has been extremely slow in exploiting its maritime resources compared with other eastern Mediterranean countries and especially Israel which has been drilling for years.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the Levant Basin, which covers Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and the Gaza Strip, contains around 122 trillion Cubic feet of gas and at least 1.7 billion barrels of oil. This will significantly alter the strategic energy picture in the eastern Mediterranean. This could also transform Lebanon’s economy and earn it billions of dollars in energy exports and …..hopefully end the blackouts .
Photo: From Left Riad Salameh, Lebanon Central Bank chief, Nagib Mikati, Lebanon PM , Jean Burelle , president of MEDEF, Boutos Asaker , Lebanon ambassador to France