Lebanon to UN: Israel's sea border plan imperils peace

Beirut sends letter to Ban Ki-moon rejecting maritime border approved by cabinet in area of Mediterranean potentially rich in resources.

Tamar 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tamar 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Lebanon on Monday issued a complaint to the UN, saying that Israel's setting of a maritime border in a potentially resource-rich region between the two countries threatens peace and security in the region, AFP reported.
Israel’s cabinet on July 10 approved the demarcation of the northern maritime border with Lebanon, in an effort to protect economic rights in offshore territories that Lebanon is claiming as its own. Israel submitted its map to the UN to counter a map that Lebanon submitted last year. The area of the Mediterranean Sea in question is close to an area where US and Israeli firms have discovered two massive natural gas fields.
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"Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour has sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon rejecting geographic coordinates Israel submitted to the United Nations concerning the northern part of the waters it claims," a Lebanese statement said.
The statement added that Israel's claim infringes on Lebanon's Exclusive Economic Zone, a sea zone that would give Beirut the right to search the area for natural resources.
"This is a clear violation of Lebanon's rights... over an area of some 860 square kilometers, and puts international peace and security at risk," it said, adding, "We urge the secretary general to take all necessary measures to avoid conflict."
Lebanese media reported in July that the country was considering turning to the UN in regard to the maritime border. The Daily Star quoted the head of Lebanon's Public Works, Transport, Energy and Water Committee, Muhammad Qabbain as saying that after an official complaint has been lodged "even if Israel does not abide by the UN resolution, large international [excavating and offshore drilling] companies will no more be able to operate in an area dubbed as disputed by the UN.”
One Israeli official said Lebanese threats to take the issue to the Security Council, where it is currently a member, is merely a “smokescreen” to camouflage the fact that Lebanon violated international maritime line by unilaterally demarcating the border last year.
According to the official, borders cannot be demarked unilaterally, but rather must be agreed upon by both countries, or – if they can’t agree – must be sent to an arbitrator that both sides agree upon. Since Lebanon has refused to do either, the official said, it can’t just set the maritime border on its own. Once it did, he added, Israel had no choice but to do the same in order to protect its interests.