Senior Israeli diplomatic officials expressed annoyance Wednesday with UN Special Coordinator to Lebanon Michael Williams for saying his organization may look into demarcating its naval border with Israel to prevent what the Lebanese claim is exploitation of their oil and gas reserves.
Lebanon has been making claims on the large natural gas deposits recently discovered off the coast of Haifa, and on Monday the Lebanese press reported Williams saying the UN might demarcate the maritime border, but he would have to discuss it first with diplomatic lawyers in New York.
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His remarks reportedly came during a meeting Monday in Beirut with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Foreign Minister Ali al-Shami and Minister of State for Administrative Reform Muhammad Fneish, of Hizbullah.
He also reportedly said that “Lebanon has every right to benefit from any natural resources that may be found in the waters off its coast.”
What particularly irked diplomatic officials in Jerusalem was that Williams’s message directly contradicted a message put out by UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon.
At a press conference earlier this month, UN spokesman Martin Nesirsky made clear that the UN declined Lebanon’s request to “protect the country’s natural gas reserves” by demarcating its maritime border with Israel.
Shami had sent Ban a letter urging him to take action after the recent enormous find off the Haifa coast.
Nesirsky said the UN would not intervene in the matter.
“Security Council Resolution 1701 does not include delineating the maritime border,” Nesirsky said. “We are talking about two different things – coastal waters and a disputed maritime border.”
The Israeli official said the Lebanese demands on the gas fields – the latest discovery at the Leviathan field, as well as earlier ones at the Tamar and Dalit fields – were “fabricated” and a result of internal Lebanese domestic problems.
“They have no legal or cartographic basis,” the officials said.
Ban made his position clear, the officials complained, and then Williams
came along and contradicted his position. “This is maddening, because
after an initial clear statement, he had a meeting and stoked the
A UN spokesman in New York declined to comment on the matter.
Jordana Horn in New York contributed to this report.