Israel said yesterday that it will continue gas exploration in the Karish field in the Mediterranean despite Lebanese objections, Anadolu reported.
The Israeli Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Energy, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Karen Harar said in a joint statement that the Karish field is "a strategic asset of the State of Israel and is intended to extract the energy resources and natural gas in the State of Israel's Economic Zone and to advance Israel's green economy."
"The State of Israel prioritises the protection of its strategic assets and is prepared to defend them and the security of its infrastructure, all in accordance with its rights," the statement said, calling on Lebanon "to accelerate negotiations on the maritime border" under US mediation.
"With its anchoring, the rig is located in Israeli territory, several kilometres south of the area over which negotiations are being conducted between the State of Israel and the Republic of Lebanon, mediated by the United States. The rig will not pump gas from the disputed territory," the statement added.
The new drilling platform arrived on Sunday at the Karish site, which Israel says is part of its UN-recognised exclusive economic zone. Beirut insists it is in the disputed area.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make contact with the relevant international bodies to prevent Israel from drilling.
Lebanon and Israel are engaged in a dispute over a maritime area that is 860 square kilometres, according to maps sent by both counties to the UN in 2011.
The area is rich in natural gas and oil. Five sessions of indirect negotiations were held between Lebanon and Israel under UN sponsorship and US mediation. The last round of talks was in May 2021 but they stalled.
The rig is expected to become operational in the next few months.