Israel Says US-Brokered Lebanese Maritime Talks to Launch in Weeks
The Israeli Energy Minister said that Israel expects to launch within a month the US-brokered talks with Lebanon on demarcation of their maritime border.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said: “As soon as the talks begin, the energy companies operating in Lebanese and Israeli waters are likely to be able to carry out the first seismological survey of the disputed maritime area.”
The Minister said he expected an agreement to be reached within six to nine months.
In May, Israel agreed to enter US-mediated talks with Lebanon on maritime borders that would have an impact on offshore oil and gas exploration.
Last year, Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas in its waters, including for a block disputed by its southern neighbour Israel, with which it has fought several wars.
A consortium composed of energy giants Total, Eni and Novatek was awarded two of Lebanon's 10 exploration blocks last year.
It is set to start drilling in block 4 in December, and later in the disputed block 9.
Last year, Total said it was aware of the border dispute in less than eight percent of block 9 and said it would drill away from that area.
In April, Lebanon invited international consortia to bid for five more blocks, which include two also adjacent to Israel's waters.
Israel also produces natural gas from reserves off its coast in the Mediterranean.
Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war, although the last Israeli troops withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 after two decades of occupation.