BEIRUT (The Daily Star) – Israel has been dipping into Lebanon’s offshore oil and gas reserves for years, Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Musawi warned Sunday, days after Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri made a similar statement.
“The Israeli enemy had started drilling for oil more than seven years ago,” the MP said in a statement released Sunday.
Musawi said that Israel has been violating 860 square kilometers of “Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone,” noting that the violation has yet to receive a governmental response that would allow Lebanon to reclaim the area.
Israel believes it has a claim over the area, while the U.N. considers the same region to be a disputed zone between the two countries, Musawi added.
The U.N. position means that all parties should refrain from drilling, exploration or any other form of activity, he added.
But Lebanon should immediately begin exploring the reserves and extracting what it can, especially if the oil were to be deemed a shared resource, since Israel’s seven-year head start puts it at an advantage to sell.
He also warned of the possibility that Israel is using horizontal drilling to access reserves that belong exclusively to Lebanon.
“It is the duty of the government to make it a top priority to preserve Lebanon’s oil resources.”
Last week, Berri told Al-Akhbar that he had received credible information from an unnamed “international scientist” that Israel had started siphoning off gas from one of Lebanon’s reserves in an area close to the southern border with Israel.
The oil and gas is being siphoned off at a very low cost, he told the daily, vowing to raise the issue of licensing for offshore gas exploration at the start of the new year.
Last August, the Lebanese government postponed for the fifth time the first round of licensing for offshore gas exploration due to political disagreements.
The dispute was over the designation of blocks open for bidding and the terms of a draft exploration and production agreement.
Experts had warned that some international companies were re-evaluating the situation in light of the repeated delays of the licensing round.