Monday, July 11, 2011

U.S. backs Lebanon on maritime border dispute with Israel

Amid rising tensions over gas reserves, Israel to submit proposal to UN on where maritime economic border with Lebanon should be over next few days; U.S. endorsed Lebanon’s proposal submitted to UN in August.


In the next few days Israel will submit to the United Nations its take on where its maritime economic border with Lebanon should be, as the two countries scramble for gas reserves estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

Israel’s position is due to be approved by the cabinet on Sunday; Jerusalem argues that Lebanon’s proposal includes major areas belonging to Israel.

Last August, Lebanon submitted to the United Nations its version of where the maritime border should be – the exclusive economic zone. In November, it submitted its version of its western border, with Cyprus.

The Lebanese proposal does not include the large Tamar and Leviathan gas prospects, operated by Delek Energy and U.S. company Noble Energy. But the National Infrastructure Ministry found that the proposal contains reserves with a potential value in the billions of dollars.

The Lebanese also sent their version to the United States, which conducted an expert review and endorsed the document. A senior Foreign Ministry official told Haaretz that the American diplomat in charge of the issue was Frederic Hof, who was responsible for Syria and Lebanon under the former U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. Hof has kept the Israel-Lebanon brief despite Mitchell’s resignation two months ago.

In April, Hof began shuttling between Beirut and Jerusalem. A senior administration official told Haaretz that Hof’s main goal was to prevent the border from becoming a source of tension between Israel and Lebanon, which could give Hezbollah a pretext for targeting Israeli gas installations.

Beyond the political and diplomatic interest, the United States has an economic interest in keeping the parties calm, not least because American companies are involved in the search for gas and oil in Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus. Hof told his counterparts in Jerusalem that Israel should cooperate with setting the maritime border to prevent the creation of an “underwater Shaba Farms,” referring to a contested area on the Israel-Lebanon border.

The Foreign Ministry official said Israel had asked the Americans to relay a warning to Lebanon on the matter. Foreign Ministry officials told Hof that Israel would not allow a provocation on the matter or an attack on Israeli gas installations. They said Israel would consider such an attack an attack on its sovereign territory and would retaliate “strongly” against Lebanon.

Hof responded by suggesting that Israel submit to the United Nations its own outlook on the border and try to launch a dialogue. Hof asked Israel not to turn the issue into a political spat but to see it as an economic and technical matter that could benefit all parties. (???? - "BENEFIT all parties??? - Lebanon/Hezibollah invading Israel's maritime space benefits Hezibollah, not Israel!)

Israel rejected indirect talks via the United Nations, calling on Lebanon to begin negotiations on all border issues, not just the maritime border. The foreign and infrastructure ministries believe that Lebanon is claiming vast offshore territories that belong to Israel under international law.
    “It’s important to provide the UN with the Israeli version of the border as soon as possible, to react to Lebanon’s unilateral move,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told Haaretz. “Not responding could be interpreted as a tacit agreement. We must act fast to ensure Israel’s economic rights in these areas.”
Israel has become even more concerned about the positioning of the border after learning recently that a Norwegian company has begun searching for gas in the area. The search is due to be completed within months, and the Lebanese government hopes to use the findings to license international energy companies to probe areas that could be in Israel’s exclusive economic zone.

Posted by Ted Belman @ 8:56 am | 11 Comments » ISRAPUNDIT
I am posting two informative comments directly for Israpundit (below).  To read all comments on Israpundit, please go their their website at:
  1. yamit82 says:
    Lebanese FM Against Israel-Cyprus Maritime Borders
    NICOSIA – Lebanon’s complaint to the UN about Cyprus and Israel’s agreement on their sea borders is a matter between Israel and Lebanon, said Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides.
    NICOSIA – Lebanon’s complaint to the UN about Cyprus and Israel’s agreement on their sea borders is a matter between Israel and Lebanon, said Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides.

    Risks ahead for offshore oil, gas exploitation
    Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war; as are Cyprus and Turkey – which has threatened to take action if the Republic of Cyprus goes ahead with undersea hydrocarbons exploitation without including the Turkish-Cypriot community. As it stands, Turkey said that the agreement between Israel and Cyprus is null and void. But foreign minister Marcos Kyprianou’s response to Turkey is that it is Cyprus’ sovereign right to explore its own natural resources.
    Noble Energy has an exploratory license for Block 12, which lies in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone and could contain 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. During a recent visit to Cyprus, a Noble Energy official said that natural gas could be delivered from Block 12 by 2014.
    Reply – Quote
  2. yamit82 says:
    The Next Big Lebanon-Israel Flare-Up: Gas

    It is perhaps no surprise then that the sudden interest in the potential fossil-fuel wealth off the Israeli and Lebanese coastline has turned the Mediterranean into a potential new theater of conflict between the Israelis and Hizballah. The Lebanese group already boasts an amphibious warfare unit trained in underwater sabotage and coastal infiltrations. Hizballah’s ability to target shipping — and possibly offshore oil-and-gas platforms — was demonstrated in the monthlong war with Israel in 2006 when the militants came close to sinking an Israeli naval vessel with an Iranian version of the Chinese C-802 missile. Hizballah fighters have since hinted that they have acquired larger antiship missiles with double the 72-mile (116 km) range of the C-802 variant. Last year, Hizballah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned that his organization now possesses the ability to target shipping along the entire length of Israel’s coastline.
    In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the offshore gas fields as a “strategic objective that Israel’s enemies will try to undermine” and vowed that “Israel will defend its resources.” The Israeli navy has since reportedly presented to the government a maritime-security plan costing between $40 million and $70 million to defend the gas fields.
    Upping the ante even further, Nasrallah promised that if Israel threatens future Lebanese plans to tap its oil and gas reserves, “only the Resistance [Hizballah] would force Israel and the world to respect Lebanon’s right.”
    Then there is the recent passage of two Iranian navy vessels in the Mediterranean and the subsequent discovery by the Israeli navy of a smuggled consignment of arms and ammunition that included six C-704 antiship missiles believed destined for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The missiles, though smaller than the C-802, could target Israeli shipping off Gaza as well as Israel’s Yam Tethys oil rig off the coast of Ashkelon. Citing the Iranian vessels and smuggled antiship missiles, security analyst Luft said, “Such activities could present real threats to exploration activities off Israel.” The potential oil and gas fields off the Lebanese and Israeli coasts look set not only to become a potential long-term source of wealth — but also a source of conflict in the years ahead.
    Read more:,8599,2061187,00.html#ixzz1RgeiqKmn

    NormanF says:
    The US wants Israel to turn over its hard-won natural gas fields to Hezbollah!
    Not exactly a surprising development.