Mikati asks TotalEnergies to launch gas search 'immediately'


Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati on Tuesday asked French energy giant TotalEnergies to kick start gas exploration off its shores, after Israel said the two countries have reached a U.S.-mediated deal to settle their maritime border.

Lebanon's search for gas riches in the hydrocarbon-rich eastern Mediterranean had stalled since 2020 over competing claims with Israel over offshore gas fields.

Following Israel's announcement on Tuesday, caretaker PM Mikati met a visiting delegation from TotalEnergies -- which was awarded an exploration license in 2018.

"During the meeting, Mikati called on representatives of TotalEnergies to immediately begin taking operational steps to drill in Lebanese waters," his office said in a statement.

Lebanon has yet to officially agree to the deal, but Mikati said he hoped a "conclusion would be reached soon" that could pave the way for "gas exploration in Lebanese waters".

Lebanon's energy minister, Walid Fayad, who also attended the meeting, said that "logistical matters take time, but work will start immediately".

TotalEnergies is part of a consortium of energy giants awarded a license to explore for gas in two of Lebanon's 10 blocks, numbers 4 and 9.

One well drilled in Block 4 in 2020 by TotalEnergies, Eni and Novatek showed only traces but no commercially viable gas deposits.

Block 9, near the border with Israel, contains the so-called Qana field or Sidon reservoir, and will be a major zone for offshore exploration after a deal is finalized, according to Lebanese officials.

Lebanon will "get its full rights from the Qana field", and Israel could receive compensation through Total, said Elias Bou Saab, Lebanon's lead negotiator in the maritime border talks.

Bou Saab had on Tuesday morning visited President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and PM-designate Najib Mikati, to hand them a copy of the latest text drafted by U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein.

"The unified Lebanese stance and Lebanon's adherence to its rights and demands have led to this positive outcome," Mikati said, as he received the final draft of the maritime border agreement from Bou Saab.

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