Lebanon and Zionist regime have nearly come to blows over Beirut’s offshore oil and gas exploration projects, a running standoff that has kept the Middle East on edge considering the tumultuous history between the two sides.
It all started last week, when Zionist regime described as “very provocative” a Lebanese tender for projects in two of its 10 offshore blocks in the Mediterranean Sea.
In December, the cabinet of Prime Minister Saad Hariri granted licenses to a consortium of three international companies — Italy’s Eni, France’s Total and Russia’s Novatek — to carry out exploratory drilling in Lebanon’s Block 4 and Block 9 territorial waters and determine whether they contain oil and gas reserves.
The announcement did not go down well in Tel Aviv, which claims sovereignty over Block 9.
“When they issue a tender on a gas field, including Block 9, which by any standard is ours … this is very, very challenging and provocative conduct here,” said Zionist regime’s Minister of War, Avigdor Lieberman.
Continuing his hostile comments, the Israeli war minister told a security conference in Tel Aviv that the international firms contracted by Lebanon were making “a grave error” by accepting the offer.
Lieberman picked up an even more aggressive line against Lebanon at the same event, warning that the country would “pay the full price” should another war erupt between the two sides.
Lebanon was quick to respond to the blatant threat, with Lebanese Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil stressing that Beirut was going to push ahead with its exploration plans.
“We consider this [Lieberman’s] statement as an aggression on Lebanon’s sovereignty to practice its natural right to explore our oil resources,” Abi Khalil said, adding that the block was “inside Lebanese territorial waters and Lebanon demarcated maritime borders in accordance with international laws.”
Vowing to use all the diplomatic powers vested in him to resolve the dispute, President Michel Aoun said Lebanon had a right to “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all means available.”
He also warned that some elements inside the country and abroad were seeking “to create climates that are consistent with the Israeli threats to attack Lebanon.”
Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah called Lieberman’s comments “a new aggression” and pledged to “decisively confront any assault on our oil and gas rights.”