The Tamar gas platform - Albatross - July 10 2011
The Tamar gas platform. Photo by Albatross
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Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said that Lebanon will not tolerate Israel seizing its oil, gas, and water resources, Channel 10 reported on Thursday.

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"Lebanon will stand guard in order to protect all its rights – no matter the cost," Qassem stressed during a speech on the Israel-Lebanon maritime border conflict.

Qassem said Hezbollah supports Lebanon's insistence to protect its maritime rights as well as the proposal it had submitted to the United Nations in August on where its maritime economic border should be.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently said that the maritime borders proposed by Lebanon encroach upon Israeli territory, and are significantly further south than those recognized by Israel and determined in previous deals.

Qassem said Thursday that Israeli threats do not scare Hezbollah. "Israel knows its threats are worthless in Lebanon after the bitter experience it had gained in the face of Lebanon's steadfast stance," he said.

Israel plans to submit coordinates to the United Nations its take on where its maritime economic border with Lebanon should be, as the two countries scramble for gas reserves estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

Last August, Lebanon submitted to the United Nations its version of where the maritime border should be - the exclusive economic zone. In November, it submitted its version of its western border, with Cyprus. The United States has endorsed the Lebanese proposal.

 

The Lebanese proposal does not include the large Tamar and Leviathan gas prospects, operated by Delek Energy and U.S. company Noble Energy. But the National Infrastructure Ministry found that the proposal contains reserves with a potential value in the billions of dollars.

Israel has rejected the possibility of indirect talks via the United Nations to resolve the issue, calling on Lebanon to begin negotiations on all border issues, not just the maritime border. The foreign and infrastructure ministries believe that Lebanon is claiming vast offshore territories that belong to Israel under international law.

"It's important to provide the UN with the Israeli version of the border as soon as possible, to react to Lebanon's unilateral move," a senior Foreign Ministry official told Haaretz. "Not responding could be interpreted as a tacit agreement. We must act fast to ensure Israel's economic rights in these areas."

Israel has become even more concerned about the positioning of the border after learning recently that a Norwegian company has begun searching for gas in the area. The search is due to be completed within months, and the Lebanese government hopes to use the findings to license international energy companies to probe areas that could be in Israel's exclusive economic zone.