Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has warned that Israel may deplete his country’s potential offshore oil and gas reserves after the Tel Aviv regime awarded energy exploration licenses near a disputed maritime boundary in Mediterranean waters.
Speaking after a meeting with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Beirut on Thursday, Berri said Israel has “licensed two companies to start drilling by April 2020 at most,” warning that the move threatened “to drain a whole basin” and a large part of Lebanon’s oil wealth before the country even starts to drill.
The senior Lebanese legislator went on to say that he had raised the issue with the Italian prime minister earlier in the day, and the latter “had shown readiness to back Lebanon up on all fronts.”
The speaker said it was important to warn Italian energy company Eni of the Israeli “violations” against Block 9.
Berri further noted that he is going to raise the matter with French President Emmanuel Macron that how Israel is seeking to steal Lebanon’s oil.
On Wednesday, Lebanon’s parliament speaker said the Israeli regime was violating Lebanon’s sovereignty in a “dangerous” manner by licensing a company to “exploit an area” for oil and gas resources near a disputed sliver of water.
“(It is) a dangerous matter. Israel has licensed and exploited an area adjacent to the Lebanese southern maritime borders,” Berri was quoted by lawmakers from Amal party as saying on Wednesday after a meeting.
The Lebanese parliament speaker says Beirut will not remain silent about Israel’s “dangerous” behavior.
“This is an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty and targets our oil wealth and waters,” he added.
Ali Bazzi, an Amal lawmaker, said Israel pressed on with the “violation” despite the fact that the firms on the Lebanese side have stayed away from the disputed border.
The Lebanese government announced in February last year that it had signed gas exploration and production contracts for two energy blocks, including the disputed Block 9, with a consortium of France’s Total, Italian Eni and Russia’s Novatek oil and gas companies.
Back in December 2017, the cabinet of Prime Minister Saad Hariri granted licenses to a consortium of three international companies to carry out exploratory drilling in Lebanon’s Block 4 and Block 9 and determine whether they contain oil and gas reserves.
Israeli officials, who claim sovereignty over Block 9, reacted angrily to the announcement.
Lebanon’s energy minister says there would be full exploration in an offshore energy block in waters disputed by Israel.
“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,” Israel’s former minister of military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, said at the time.
The former Israeli minister noted that the international firms contracted by Lebanon were making “a grave error” by accepting the offer.
Israel relies heavily on gas and the Tel Aviv regime has long been developing a number of offshore gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea.
Israeli and Lebanese officials are not holding back in an escalating war of words over disputed energy fields in the Mediterranean.
The Tamar gas field, with proven reserves of 200 billion cubic meters, already produces gas, while the larger Leviathan field is expected to go on stream in the coming months.
According to estimates by the Israel Natural Gas Lines, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories consumed around 9.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2016. The number reportedly stood at over 10 bcm in 2018.