Naharnet

Aoun, Berri, Hariri Warn over Israeli Threats

President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned Wednesday over remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman about an offshore gas site dubbed Block 9.

“What Lieberman has said about Block 9 represents a direct threat to Lebanon and its right to extend national sovereignty over its territorial waters,” Aoun said.

Berri for his part warned over Lieberman's statement and noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Russia is “more than dangerous.”

“This requires all Lebanese to be vigilant and to cling to unity,” the Speaker added.

Hariri meanwhile noted that “Israeli officials have been addressing threats to Lebanon for several days now, the last of which was Lieberman's claim that Block 9 belongs to Israel.”

“This claim is wrong... and is part of Israel's expansionist and settler policies that are aimed at stealing the rights of others and jeopardizing regional security,” Hariri said.

“The Lebanese government will follow up on the motives behind these remarks with the relevant international authorities, to affirm its legitimate right to act in its territorial waters and to reject any encroachment wherever it may come from,” the premier added.

“Lieberman's remarks are a blatant provocation that is rejected by Lebanon,” Hariri went on to say.

Lebanon in December approved a bid for offshore oil and gas exploration off its Mediterranean coast -- a vision for years hampered by political instability and domestic wrangling.

That deal was awarded to the only bidder, an international consortium including France's Total and Russia's Novatek.

Lebanese officials say the country will start exploratory offshore drilling in 2019.

A major finding in Lebanon's southernmost waters could raise the possibility of a dispute with Israel, which is developing a number of offshore gas deposits, with one large field, Tamar, already producing gas, and the larger Leviathan field set to go online next year.

There are over 800 square kilometers of waters claimed by Lebanon and Israel, which are technically in a state of conflict. Israel and Hizbullah fought a fierce, monthlong war in 2006.


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