Israeli diplomat calls for Lebanon to join gas forum

Israeli diplomat calls for Lebanon to join Mediterranean gas forum
2 min read
06 May, 2021
While still technically at war, an Israeli diplomat has said Lebanon could benefit from joining a proper regional framework over the search for gas.
Lebanon and Israel have been in indirect talks for months over maritime demarcation [Getty]
An Israeli diplomat has called for Lebanon's inclusion in the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, as the two countries engage in indirect negotiations over their maritime borders.

In his article published by The Times of Israel, Former ambassador to Cyprus Michael Harari said there are plans to include Lebanon in the forum, which was established at the start of 2019 as countries in the East Mediterranean search for gas.

"Lebanon, it should be mentioned, enjoys gas potential in its economic waters, and has even succeeded in attracting… some of the largest international companies in the global energy market," he said.

He added that Israel was understanding of Lebanon's reluctance to join under the current circumstances.

Beirut refused to join the forum due to the inclusion of Israel, a country Lebanon is still technically at war with.

Indirect negotiations between Israel and Lebanon have been held since October on deciding the maritime borders of the two countries. Talks were held again on the Israel-Lebanon border earlier this week.

Harari said that even if the Lebanese government wanted to join as a monitor state, some officials in Beirut might scupper this.

Lebanon and Israel have differing opinions on where their maritime borders begin and end, in a bid to carve out the biggest share possible of potentially gas and oil-rich waters.

Lebanon wants negotiations to factor in the government's draft proposal to add just over 1,400 square km (540 square miles) of waters to its exclusive economic zone, which angered Israel late last year prompting it to withdraw from talks.  

Israel already extracts gas from fields in the Mediterranean but is keen to explore potential new reserves. Lebanon, which is suffering its worse ever economic crisis, is also keen to search and extract gas from its waters.

"Egypt and France have great influence on Lebanon, and perhaps Cyprus can also contribute to this complex diplomatic mission," Harari said, in reference to the border talks, suggesting a possible US-brokered settlement.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected