Several Lebanese ministers swiftly reacted Wednesday to remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on an offshore gas block.
Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil reminded of a January 18 letter to the U.N. in which he said that “the Lebanese republic asserts its right to use all means possible to defend itself and its legitimate and documented economic interests in the event of any attack.”
Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil also said that “Lebanon will utilize all means possible to fend off the Israeli attack declared today by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman about Block 9.”
“Lieberman's remarks on Block 9 are a blatant attack on Lebanese rights and we will not allow anyone to impose any restrictions on us regarding the utilization of our oil resources,” Abi Khalil added, warning that “Lebanon will use all means possible to protect its petroleum activities.”
“Lebanon had informed the U.N. of the coordinates of its maritime borders, even before Israel's demarcation of its borders,” the minister went on to say, noting that “any objection against our maritime borders will remain on paper and no one will be able to implement it in reality.”
Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf meanwhile underlined that “the whole of Lebanon is clinging to its rights and it will defend its resources collectively.”
“Lebanon does not bow to the approach of intimidation and threats, and we affirm its sovereignty over its land, waters and oil resources, including Block 9,” Sarraf added.
Earlier in the day, Lieberman described as "very provocative" Lebanon's tender on exploring gas in Block 9. This gas field "is by all accounts ours," the Israeli minister said.
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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