The Lebanese government has approved an order extending sovereignty over the waters it is disputing with Israel in the Mediterranean Sea, in a development that would seem to put an end to the discussions on the matter. Lebanon's Minister of Public Works and Transport Michel Najjar told a press conference that the country would not relinquish one centimeter of its 'sacred sovereignty.' He added that Lebanon continues to see Israel as an enemy state.
In its declaration, Lebanon said that it is annexing 1,430 square kilometers of economic waters. This measure adopts Hezbollah's policy on the dispute, which says that it is not possible to negotiate with Israel, on any issue because, that lends it legitimacy.
The disputed waters contain several sites for planned drilling to explore for gas fields, where it is hoped there could be large reserves. Lebanon has been hoping to push ahead with gas exploration to create new revenue sources for the country, which is in the midst of a dire economic crisis.
In response to Lebanon's unilateral action, Israel's Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz said, "It looks like Lebanon prefers to break up the talks instead of trying to reach consensual solutions. To our great regret, this will not be the first time over the past 20 years that the Lebanese have change their maritime maps for propaganda needs and a demonstration of national pride, by which they have caused talks to fail again and again. At a time when other countries in the region like Israel, Egypt and Cyprus have been working hard for years to develop their natural gas fields for the profit of their citizens, the Lebanese have been left behind with warmongering rhetoric that doesn't move anything forward. Unilateral Lebanese measures will, of course, be answered with parallel measures by Israel."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on April 12, 2021
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