Lebanese Cabinet discusses offshore energy policies

July 14, 2011 at 1:25 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 14 (UPI) -- The Lebanese Cabinet has a meeting scheduled regarding the contentious issue of Beirut's energy policies in relation to the country's offshore energy assets.

At stake are massive offshore Mediterranean sub-sea natural gas reserves but the issue involves competing seabed claims with Israel, Cyprus and Turkey.

Offshore maritime assets fall under the general delineation terms of the 1982 U.N. Law of the Sea Convention. That provides each country with a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone for unilateral development of offshore assets.

But the issue becomes complicated in congested waters with overlapping claims, as in the eastern Mediterranean. Massive natural gas reserves have been discovered in the region and the fields cross international boundaries.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources familiar with the governmental discussions said that the 2007 rejection by the Turkish government of the proposed demarcation maritime border between Lebanon and the Republic of Cyprus resulted in the failure of the governments to ratify a proposed bilateral agreement.

Issues between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union, remain complex and tense because the northern part of Cyprus is home to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, established in 1974 in the wake of the Turkish invasion of the island and only recognized by Ankara.

According to UNCLOS terms, countries with shared maritime borders must reach bilateral agreements for the demarcation of the borders. Accordingly, Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus are obliged to complete a tripartite agreement on the demarcation of the maritime area they share, the Daily Star Online reported Thursday.

Last week Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour stated that Lebanon would file a complaint with the United Nations against Israel.

"Lebanese diplomacy is always ready to confront any Israeli threat to Lebanon," Mansour said.

Commenting on recent Israeli maneuvers near Lebanon's frontiers, seen in Beirut as a provocation over the issue of offshore energy reserves, Mansour added, "The Israeli enemy's continuing threats are not confined to maneuvers.

"Lebanon is always exposed to air, sea and land Israeli violations, which average 11 violations daily. Therefore, Israel's threats are not confined to maneuvers or training inside the occupied territories but they go beyond that to daily violations (of sovereignty) in Lebanon."

Mansour said Lebanon is studying the maritime issues related to Mediterranean energy assets and intends to take the dispute to the United Nations.

"The right decision must be made in order for the Lebanese diplomatic channels to turn to the United Nations to prove Lebanon has the right to its water and oil," he said.

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