Offshore Gas Drilling 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
is at least seven years behind Israel in terms of developing its
maritime natural gas and oil fields, Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported United Nations special
representative Michael Williams as saying Thursday.
Williams urged Lebanon to begin passing laws
that would allow energy companies to begin searching for oil and natural gas in
Lebanon's Mediterranean coast.
Williams also said that the UN
was committed to the implementation of UN resolution 1701, which ended
hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 and supported the
territorial integrity of Lebanon within its internationally recognized
borders, including those borders at sea.
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While acknowledging that issues surrounding the Israeli-Lebanese border could influence peace keeping between the two countries, he stressed that Beirut must begin focusing more attention on issues of
development in the energy field.
Lebanese Energy Minister Jibran Bassil told As-Safir that
Prime Minister Nijab Mitaki's government has now put the oil and gas issue as a high priority. Bassil also said that the Cabinet
has created a unified approach to the issue of offshore energy
exploration, and has created a government commission for the matter.
On Wednesday, Lebanon’s cabinet approved a memorandum of understanding
with Iran to help Beirut pursue oil and gas oil exploration, a Lebanese
government source told the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper.
While Beirut has complained of Israel's "illegal" and
"aggressive" pursuit of its maritime zone and resources, in signing the
agreement with Iran, Lebanon may be violating UN Security Council
sanctions against the Islamic Republic and could incur a condemnation
from the world body, the Ya Libnan website reported.
Last month, Beirut said it filed a complaint to the UN
over the recent demarcation of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) at the
maritime border between Israel and Cyprus, which allows the two
countries to exploit natural resources within their respective areas of
sovereignty, and which by default also demarcated the border between
Israel and Lebanon.
Lebanese Foreign Affairs and Immigration
Minister Adnan Mansour had told Hezbollah affiliated news Channel
Al-Manar that the demarcation is in effect a violation of Beirut's right
to exploit resources, including natural gas and oil, that fall within
its maritime borders.