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Lebanon warns Israel against 'encroaching' on maritime wealth

ANKARA, TURKIYE - FEBRUARY 01: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati pays respect after leaving a wreath as he visits Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Turkish Republic's Founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara, Turkiye on February 01, 2022. ( Ali Balıkçı - Anadolu Agency )
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Ankara, Turkiye on 1 February 2022 [Ali Balıkçı/Anadolu Agency]

Lebanon yesterday warned Israel against "encroaching" on its maritime wealth after the arrival of Greece's Energean Power floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel to the area, Jordan's Assabeel newspaper reported.

The rig arrived in the maritime zone, which is disputed by Israel and Lebanon, to carry out digging at the Karish offshore natural gas field.

Israeli media reported that navy vessels, including submarines and the Iron Dome would take part in securing the rig.

According to Showcast, Energean said it would immediately begin hook-up and commissioning operations, including risers and jumpers installation as well as the commissioning of the sales gas pipeline.

"It expected three to four months of commissioning work before first gas, which remained on track for the third quarter of the year."

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that Israel is "encroaching on Lebanon's maritime wealth, and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area," calling the Israeli move "extremely dangerous."

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Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun warned Israel against drilling in the Karish natural gas field. In a statement, the president said he had discussed the matter with Mikati and asked the army's leadership to keep him updated on the rig.

"Any action or activity in the disputed area represents a provocation and a hostile act," the statement of the Lebanese presidency said. Adding that there remain US-mediated talks aimed at settling the maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel.

Hezbollah has previously warned Israel against commencing any operation in the disputed area before a deal is reached.

The disputed area is estimated to be 860 square kilometre, according to a map registered with the United Nations in 2011.

In 2020, Lebanon demanded an additional area of 1,430 square kilometres, noting that the disputed area is not 860 square kilometres, but 2,290 square kilometres. Israel rejected this proposal and halted talks.

Karish contains 1.4 trillion cubic feet of proven and probable gas and this could be a game-changer for Lebanon, which is suffering from a chronic and tight economic crisis.

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