Lebanese Official Claims U.S. Blocking Resolution of Gas Dispute With Israel

Unlike Cyprus and Israel, Lebanon has been very slow in exploiting maritime gas reserves.


The speaker of Lebanon's parliament has asked his country's ambassador to the United States to inquire why a U.S. diplomat is supposedly stalling the resolution of a dispute over gas reserves between Lebanon and Israel.

Both countries claim a gas-rich maritime area of 850 square kilometers (328 square miles) in the Mediterranean, according to Ya Libnan website.

Speaker Nabih Berri is in the forefront of a campaign calling for the demarcation of Lebanon's southern territorial waters. In the past, he has accused Israel of “stealing” Lebanon’s offshore gas.

Berri asked ambassador Antoine Chedid to inquire with the U.S. State Department why Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy Amos Hochstein, who initially encouraged Lebanon to settle the dispute with Israel, has reportedly become an obstacle to its resolution.

Ya Libnan did not provide responses from Hochstein or the State Department.
During a visit to Lebanon in April, Hochstein Amos encouraged the Lebanese government to “act quickly to adopt the needed measures for the issue of gas and oil."

“There is not enough time for the government to move at a slow pace," Hochstein said in an interview with As-Safir. "It has to catch up with neighboring countries.”

He added that the U.S. was working on "a fair distribution" of the shares of the disputed gas fields allocated to each country.

The maritime area between Israel, Cyprus and Lebanon, known as the Levant Basin, contains 123 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and around 2 billion barrels of oil, according to a 2010 U.S. Geological Survey.

Under maritime law, the basin region was to be shared between Cyprus, Israel and Lebanon. The first two countries were quick off the mark and are already exploiting the region's gas reserves. Lebanon, however, has lagged badly behind, primarily due to its ineffective government resulting from sectarian splits.