Lebanon demands Israel to halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area

Lebanese President Michel Aoun meets U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale and U.S. Ambassador at the Baabda presidential palace on Thursday

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On Thursday, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun demanded Israel to stop its exploration in an offshore gas pitch on its southern border, amongst continuing disagreement over their common sea border.
Both states took part in indirect US-brokered negotiations last year to examine disagreements to clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration.

The dialogues were delayed after Lebanon demanded a greater area, comprising part of the Karish gas field, where Israel has pre-arranged a Greek firm rights for exploration. “Lebanon is within its rights to evolve its position according to its interest and as suitable, under international law,” Aoun told visiting United States envoy David Hale. Aoun demanded that international experts draw the maritime boundaries according to international law,” the presidency said in a statement. He also ordered for a “commitment to not carry out any oil or gas activities and not start any exploration in the Karish field and its adjacent waters” until the matter was settled.

The talks last year were supposed to discuss a Lebanese demand for 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of territory in the disputed maritime area, according to a map sent to the United Nations in 2011. But Lebanon has since said the map was founded on inaccurate calculations and demanded 1,430 square kilometers (552 square miles) more territory in the south border, embracing a part of Karish.

Lebanon’s outbound public works minister this week signed a decree to make Lebanon’s demand for the larger area official. Aoun, as well as Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and Defense Minister Zeina Adra, still have to sign it before Lebanon sends it to the UN to make its new demand official.

For his part, on Thursday, US envoy David Hale said the US was ready to continue brokering Israel-Lebanon talks on the basis on which the discussions were initiated.

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