Lebanon’s President: Israel Refuses to Agree on Maritime Borders

Dispute is over 860-square-kilometer triangle with potential gas, oil reserves

Lebanese President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on June 22, 2018.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Tuesday that Israel was refusing to agree a final maritime border between the two countries, a month after Lebanon began exploring for its first offshore oil and gas reserves.

Lebanon has an unresolved maritime border with Israel that involves a triangular area of sea of around 860 square kilometers extending along the edge of three of its 10 offshore energy blocks.

In February, Lebanon signed its first exploration and production agreements for offshore Blocks 4 and 9 with a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek. Block 9 contains an area of water claimed by both Israel and Lebanon, but the consortium has said it has no plans to drill in the disputed part.

“Israel still refuses the demarcation of the maritime borders near the Exclusive Economic Zone where exploration for oil and gas has begun,” Aoun said on Twitter. He did not specify the nature of what he called Israel’s refusal.

Lebanon, which began its first offshore exploration in May, is on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean, where a number of big undersea gas fields have been discovered since 2009 in Cypriot, Israeli and Egyptian waters. U.S. officials have been mediating between Lebanon and Israel about the maritime border dispute.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said earlier this month that new ideas proposed in the U.S. back-channel mediation raise the prospect of a partial deal this year.