Lebanon urges UN to stop Israel gas drilling plans

Lebanon urges UN action as Israel moves forward with gas drilling plans
2 min read
20 September, 2021
Lebanese officials expressed outrage on Saturday after a gas producer announced it had been awarded a contract to begin drilling for supplies near Israel's disputed maritime border with Lebanon.
Lebanon and Israel began negotiations about their Mediterranean Sea maritime borders in October last year [Getty]

Lebanon has expressed outrage after a gas field service company announced last week that it had been awarded a contract for a drilling campaign near Israel's disputed maritime border with Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Saturday urged the UN to intervene to stop Israel moving ahead with drilling plans before a maritime border agreement is reached.

"There is no complacency in this matter, nor is there a waiver of Lebanese rights, and the United Nations must play its role in deterring Israel and forcing it to stop its repeated violations of Lebanese rights and Lebanon's sovereignty," Mikati said, according to Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA).

Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri called on Lebanon's ministry of foreign affairs to take "urgent and immediate action in the direction of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the international community to verify the possibility of a new Israeli attack on Lebanese sovereignty and rights".

"The Israeli entity's undertaking commissions and concluding offshore exploration contracts for Halliburton or other companies in the disputed area at sea represents a violation, or even a blow to the framework agreement sponsored by the United States of America and the United Nations," Berri added.

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Berri also highlighted that energy companies Total Novatek and Eni, which were set to begin drilling in Block No. 9 of Lebanese waters months ago, have not proceeded with the plans due to a small part of the area being disputed by Israel.

Amal Mudallali, Lebanon's representative to the UN, submitted a letter to both UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ireland's delegate to the UN Geraldine Byrne Nason calling on the UNSC to "ensure that the drilling evaluation works are not located in a disputed area between Lebanon and Israel, in order to avoid any attack on Lebanon's rights and sovereignty".

Lebanon and Israel began negotiations about their Mediterranean Sea maritime borders in October last year to try to resolve a dispute that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.

Resolving the border issue could pave the way for lucrative oil and gas deals for Lebanon, which is currently living an unprecedented financial meltdown that has pushed most Lebanese into poverty since 2019 and has sent the price of staple foods soaring.