Report: Oil and Gas Exploration Back on Front Burner
by Naharnet

Lebanon’s stalled oil and gas exploration file will hopefully be put on the front burner after reports said that it shall be referred to the related ministerial committee in order to refer it later to the cabinet for approving the related decrees, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday.

In that regard, Berri voiced hopes that the file takes a smooth path away from obstacles, he told the daily: “I assume that things are going well. I see no justification for impeding this topic. The necessary government measures must be taken quickly and we are ready to keep up with this matter.”

The Speaker added that he does not see any internal obstacles hampering the exploration “things are going well so far,” he said.

However he voiced concerns from foreign (U.S. and Israel) intentions, but nevertheless stressed that Lebanon “should protect its right which requires putting all oil blocks for investment particularly the ones in the south.”

A meeting between the Free Patriotic Movement and AMAL Movement officials at Berri’s residence lately announced that the two parties have settled their disputes over the excavation of Lebanon’s offshore oil and gas reserves.

The disagreement between the two parties has hindered agreements on energy extraction for years.

Moreover, Lebanon and Israel are bickering over a zone that consists of about 854 square kilometers and suspected energy reserves that could generate billions of dollars.

Lebanon has been slow to exploit its maritime resources compared with other eastern Mediterranean countries. Israel, Cyprus and Turkey are all much more advanced in drilling for oil and gas.

In March 2010, the US Geological Survey estimated a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 34.5 trillion cubic meters of recoverable gas in the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean, which includes the territorial waters of Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Cyprus.

In August 2014, the government postponed for the fifth time the first round of licensing for gas exploration over a political dispute.

The disagreements were over the designation of blocks open for bidding and the terms of a draft exploration agreement.

Lebanese officials have continuously warned that Israel’s exploration of new offshore gas fields near Lebanese territorial waters means Israel is siphoning some of Lebanon’s crude oil.

Lebanon argues that a maritime map it submitted to the UN is in line with an armistice accord drawn up in 1949, an agreement which is not contested by Israel.