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Lebanon-Israel tensions grow over gas find

Lack of formal borders leads to escalating tensions.

July 10, 2010 11:41 by

Tensions between Israel and Lebanon are escalating thanks to the latter’s plans to drill for gas in the Mediterranean, reports Reuters.

The Israeli plans have alarmed Lebanon, says the report, because it says it also has major reserves but may lose out because it lags behind in exploration abilities and because its hostile neighbors have no sea border.

Lebanon has said it would defend its rights if Israel is found to be drilling within its borders. According to the report, a US-Israeli consortium reported in June a find that could make Israel a gas exporter.

The discovery has “sent Lebanese politicians scrambling to approve an energy law,” says the report. They have demarcated Lebanon’s economic waters but the borders are not yet internationally recognized as they have not been presented to the UN. Israel is also reported to be preparing to establish its own waters.

“In all cases Lebanon will not give up its rights, whether it is land, air or water rights and will use all means to defend these rights,” said Lebanese lawmaker Ali Hassan Khalil, an aide to Shi’ite parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri.

Disputes like this are most often resolved through negotiation, says Reuters, but in the case of Lebanon and Israel this seems unlikely because the two countries were at war just four years ago.

Catherine Hunter, the Levantine energy analyst at IHS in London, said: “I see it becoming a source of considerable tension until the location and the scale of the reservoirs are better understood.”

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