Cabinet approves maritime economic zone proposal

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is confident the UN will accept Israel's position on its maritime border with Lebanon.

The cabinet has today approved the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' proposal for Israel's exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean. The motion comes after Lebanon submitted to the UN maps, which mark maritime borders that infringe on Israel's special economic zone, and the natural gas and oil reserves that may exist there.

The cabinet approved the coordinates of the border of Israel's exclusive economic zone with Lebanon. Israel will ask the UN to determine the borders of the exclusive economic zone, which give Israel exclusive rights to fishing, oil and gas drilling, and other economic activities.

Lebanon will likely object to such a declaration, because Israel is setting the border of the exclusive economic zone without its consent, which means that the case will go to a UN appointed arbitrator for a decision. Foreign media reports claim that Israel last year positioned buoys from the coast several kilometers out to sea to mark what it says is the maritime border.

Israel claims that the border of its exclusive economic zone with Lebanon runs along a line 90 degrees from the coastline, which runs a roughly northeast direction to a point equidistant from the shores of the country across the sea - Cyprus. Lebanon claims that the border should be a straight continuation of the east-west land border. The difference between the two lines reaches up to 15 kilometers, and the Lebanese claim touches on the Alon license, owned by Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG) and Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL).

Noble Energy published the results of the 3D seismic survey of the area in June, but it has not published the findings about the Alon license. The geologic structures in the area are believed to have natural gas and oil.

The border dispute between Israel and Lebanon has essentially existed since Israel's independence in 1948, but bubbled to the surface last year following the Tamar and Leviathan gas discoveries. Claims in Lebanon following the Tamar discovery in 2009, that it was in Lebanese waters, soon died down, but the announcement of the Leviathan discovery in June 2010, reawakened calls in Lebanon for the government to act to prevent Israel from allegedly stealing Lebanon's natural resources.

Hizbullah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah and Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri are heading the activists.

In October 2010, the UN rejected Lebanon's request that it demarcate its maritime border with Israel.

Earlier today, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon told “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) that he is confident the UN will accept Israel's position on its maritime border with Lebanon. He said, "The dispute over the border with Lebanon was created by the Lebanese. It is incorrect that the Americans sided with Lebanon in this dispute. There are very objective and organized rules, and I think that Israel will have no problem proving its ownership of the maritime areas that are ostensibly in dispute."

Ayalon added, "We've been in contact with Lebanon for a very long time. We have an interest in demarcating and setting all the borders, but they refuse. Even the current land border, which is recognized by the UN, is without Lebanese involvement or recognition. After the huge gas reserves were discovered, they suddenly woke up.

"Our position was that if the maritime borders are demarcated, the land border should be jointly demarcated as well. Now that they've suddenly sent maps, we have no choice but to set the borders ourselves."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on July 10, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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