Lebanon warns Israel against any aggressive action in disputed waters

Lebanon warns Israel against any aggressive action in disputed waters

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra shows left to right Lebanon's President Michel Aoun meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the governmental palace in Beirut on May 20, 2022. Lebanon warned Israel on Sunday against any aggressive action in the disputed waters where both states hope to develop offshore energy after a ship arrived off the coast to produce gas for Israel.

After the arrival of the vessel operated by London-based Energean, President Michel Aoun said that any activity in the disputed area would amount to an act of aggression and a provocation.

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Israel says the field in question is within its exclusive economic zone, not in disputed waters.

The Lebanese presidency said that Aoun discussed with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati the vessel's entry into the disputed maritime area with Israel and asked the Army Command to provide him with accurate and official information. Aoun said that negotiations to delineate the southern maritime border continued and any action or activity in the disputed area represented a provocation and an aggressive action. There was no immediate response from Israel to Aoun's statement. Israel's energy minister Karine Elharrar welcomed the arrival of the vessel and said she hoped it would be brought online quickly.

She said that they will continue to work to diversify the energy market and to maintain stability and reliability.

Energean said its floating production and offloading vessel arrived in the Karish field, about 80 km west of the city of Haifa, Israel's exclusive economic zone. The company said it plans to bring it online in the third quarter.

Mikati said Israel was encroaching on Lebanon's maritime wealth, and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area called this extremely dangerous. In 2000, the United States began mediating indirect talks between the sides to settle a long-running dispute in the eastern Mediterranean.

Lebanon is home to the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah group, which has fought numerous wars with Israel.

Hezbollah warned Israel against drilling in the disputed area until the issue is resolved, and said the group would take action if it did so.

READ MORE: Lebanon insists on oil, gas rights in talks with Israel.

Lebanon says it cuts into the sea at an angle further south and Israel's claim runs farther north, creating a triangle of disputed waters.

Beirut expanded its claim by around 1,400 square km last year, enlarging the area disputed with Israel.

A U.S. envoy made a proposal that revives the stalled talks early this year, but Lebanon has yet to respond to.

A senior Lebanese security official Major General Abbas Ibrahim said last week in an interview that the United States was keen to turn the page on an issue that could blow up because Beirut's response would open the door for a return to those talks and that the United States was keen to turn the page on the issue.