Lebanese Leaders Laud Formation of Petroleum Authority after Months of Bickeringإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Lebanon's political leaders hailed on Thursday the formation of the Petroleum Authority, the first major step in future oil exploration since parliament passed a law last year setting the country's maritime boundary and Exclusive Economic Zone.
The appointment of the six-member committee for a six year term by the cabinet on Wednesday “is more than important and comes as part of the government’s achievements,” Speaker Nabih Berri told An Nahar newspaper.
As Safir daily said the speaker had lately exerted a huge pressure on the parties concerned to reach an agreement on the appointment of the Petroleum Authority after months of bickering on the names and its presidency.
The move “falls in the interest of all the Lebanese and future generations no matter to which side they belong to,” Berri said, adding “it would lead to an economic boom, resolve the debt problem and put Lebanon in the club of oil producing states in the region.”
Berri advised “all parties to benefit from this economic opportunity.”
Prime Minister Najib Miqati echoed a similar view, telling As Safir that the appointment of the members was “a huge Lebanese achievement.”
“The Petroleum Authority is risen truly risen!” he said.
The members of the authority that has the power to negotiate with international oil companies and issue licenses for the winning firms are Nasser Hteit (Shiite), Walid Nasser (Greek Catholic), Wissam al-Zahabi (Sunni), Assem Abu Ibrahim (Druze), Wissam Shbat (Maronite) and Gaby Daaboul (Greek Orthodox).
The head of the committee will be rotated each year between the six members to appease the major factions in the country.
Energy Minister Jebran Bassil told As Safir that following the formation of the Authority, “we now look forward to issuing tenders by the end of the year which received the full backing of the government.”
The members of the committee, who were chosen from among 618 candidates, “are the most competent,” he said, denying that they were only named for sectarian quotas although the government’s sudden approval of the names from outside the agenda on Wednesday was a clear sign that political leaders had finally reached an agreement on the division of confessional shares.
“Half of the members belong to the previous team that worked with me in drafting the oil law,” Bassil added.
Lebanon has been slow to exploit its maritime resources compared with other eastern Mediterranean countries. Israel, Cyprus and Turkey are all much more advanced in drilling for oil and gas.
The country has submitted to the United Nations a maritime map that conflicts significantly with one proposed by Israel.
The disputed zone consists of about 854 square kilometers (330 square miles), and suspected energy reserves there could generate billions of dollars.
Two companies working with the Lebanese authorities that specialize in three-dimensional exploration have already surveyed around half the EEZ, Bassil said in September.
They found a large number of gas reservoirs all along the coast.
The area off the southern coast alone contains 12 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the minister said.