Monday warned Israel against taking "unilateral steps" on the borders
of its exclusive economic zone, as the dispute over the deepwater
natural gas reserves threatens to boil over.
Michel Suleiman warned against unilateral steps of "the kind that Israel
commonly makes in violation of international law." He added that the
new Lebanese government would discuss the issue. RELATED:
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The government on Sunday approved the demarcation of its northern maritime
border with Lebanon, in an effort to protect economic rights in offshore
territories that Lebanon is claiming as its own.
In response, Lebanon
said on Sunday that it would protect its borders and natural resources on
“Lebanon has warned that it insists on protecting its borders and
resources,” Ali Hamdan, spokesman for Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri,
told Bloomberg in a telephone interview from Beirut.
The maritime border
line, according to the statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office,
demarcates economic rights in offshore territories that – with the discovery of
vast natural gas reserves – have become extremely lucrative.
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the maritime border marks the area of the
state’s exclusive economic rights, including the right to exploit natural
resources in the sea.
“The area we are discussing borders with Lebanon
and Cyprus in the north. The [maritime] line that Lebanon submitted to the UN is
significantly south of the Israeli line,” he said. “It contradicts the line
Israel has agreed upon with Cyprus, and what is more significant to me is that
it contradicts the line that Lebanon itself concluded with Cyprus in 2007. Our
goal is to establish the position of Israel regarding its maritime boundary,
according to international maritime law.”
Israel is now expected to
submit this map to the UN.
Lebanon submitted its map last
According to government officials, Israel is moving on the issue
now because under international maritime law, if one country makes a claim and
another country does not counter it, the silence of the second country is seen
Cyprus and Israel reached an agreement in December
demarcating maritime borders to enable the search for more natural gas reserves
in the area, with Israel interested in clarifying precisely where its maritime
Cyprus came to a similar agreement with Lebanon in 2007,
but it has not yet been ratified by the Lebanese parliament.
Lebanon submitted to the UN runs south of the line it agreed to with Cyprus in
According to Israeli officials, what the government did Sunday in
drawing up the boundary was simply draw a straight line from Israel’s border
with Lebanon at Rosh Hanikra to the southern point of the Cyprus-Lebanese
agreement in the Mediterranean.
officials said there were two reasons why Lebanon was changing the line that it
agreed upon with Cyprus in 2007.
The first had to do with economic
reasons, and an interest in enlarging its zone because of recent natural gas
findings in the area.
And the second, according to the officials, had to
do with Hezbollah’s increasing influence in Lebanon, and its interest in having
an “underwater Shaba Farms” issue over which they could justify continued
conflict and dispute with Israel.
Jerusalem Post staff and Bloomberg contributed to this