Report: Israel 'De-escalates' Gas Dispute after 'Warning' from Drilling Companies


Drilling companies working offshore Israel have sent “warning signals” to Israeli authorities that escalating a dispute with Lebanon over oil drilling rights "could push them to withdraw which prompted Israel to de-escalate” tensions, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday.

The daily said a “Western ambassador has reassured that Israel has no intention of escalating tension with Lebanon, which was also reversed by the U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson during his stay in Beirut.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's fiery statement against Lebanon regarding Block 9 oil field “has triggered argumentation in Israel,” it added quoting the ambassador. “Companies operating in the field of offshore oil in Israel have sent warning signals to Israeli authorities informing them that any escalation of the situation would affect the work of these companies and push them to withdraw.”

The “warnings” were led by the Greek company, which is operating in the field close to the disputed area with Lebanon, prompting a change in the “Israeli threat tone” and a “reduction in escalation,” it added.

Lieberman has described as "very provocative" Lebanon's offshore oil and gas exploration tender and suggested that Lebanon had put out a tender to international groups for a gas field "which is by all accounts ours (Israeli)."

Lebanon last year approved the licenses for an international consortium led by France's Total, Italy's ENI and Russia's Novatek to move forward with offshore oil and gas development for two of five blocks in the Mediterranean Sea, including one known as Block 9 that is disputed in part with Israel.

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

Tillerson was in Lebanon Thursday on a brief stopover, and the issue topped the agenda. Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield has also been holding talks with Lebanese officials on the subject.

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