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Lebanon offshore oil gas basinLebanese Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour accused Israel of breaching Lebanon’s maritime border, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Friday

“The Israelis are stealing from our oil and gas share of the sea, and we will prove this to the world through the diplomatic and international channels. We will defend our rights,” Mansour told Al-Joumhouria.

This development comes after the Israeli newspaper Globe published a report on Sunday claiming that Lebanon was trying to breach the Israeli maritime border.

“Official Israeli sources say that Lebanon is about to award offshore oil and gas exploration licenses in areas that encroach on Israel’s exclusive economic zone. It is unclear what Israel plans to do about this matter, which could ignite the border dispute with Lebanon. However, international law experts say that Israel is liable to lose territory if it does not object to the Lebanese acts in court, or even militarily,” the report also said.

Mansour said that Lebanon has been monitoring the oil and gas file ever since the offshore reserves were discovered.

“We will demonstrate our claim to this wealth through international legal means,” he stated.

On Tuesday, caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil lashed out at Israel, accusing it of digging a well 5 kilometers from Lebanese offshore reserves.

Large potential natural gas reserves were found several years ago in what is called the Levantine Basin. A U.S. Geological Survey said in 2010 the Levant Basin contains 123 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and around 2 billion barrels of oil.

French consultant Beicip Franlab published a report last February in which it estimates the reserve potential offshore Lebanon at 440 million-675 million barrels of oil and 15 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to UPI

Under maritime law, the basin region was to be shared between Cyprus (an EU country) Israel and Lebanon. Of the former two countries they were quick off the mark in getting into the bidding business, forging relationships with exploratory and drilling companies and generally preparing to do business.

Where was Lebanon during this period? The Republic was spending two years forming a six-member “Petroleum Administration” to handle tenders from companies bidding on exploration blocks. Finally the Petroleum Administration was formed last February.

Plagued by slow-motion politics and Lebanon’s well-known sectarian splits, the Lebanese government is now effectively years behind neighbors Israel and Cyprus in moving forward on exploration.

Bassil warned last July that Israel’s discovery of a new offshore gas field near Lebanese territorial waters means the Jewish state could siphon some of Lebanon’s crude oil.

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