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| 13 December, 2017

Lebanon: Committees hold second joint session to discuss oil and gas

Half a dozen parliamentary committees held session to discuss draft laws pertaining to offshore oil and gas exploration.

Image used for illustrative purpose. 
Workers conduct an onshore gas and oil inspection in Batroun, northern Lebanon, October 2, 2013.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Workers conduct an onshore gas and oil inspection in Batroun, northern Lebanon, October 2, 2013.

REUTERS/Mohammed Azakir
BEIRUT - Half a dozen parliamentary committees Tuesday held their second joint session in a week to discuss draft laws pertaining to offshore oil and gas exploration. Shortly after Prime Minister Saad Hariri officially withdrew his resignation, Speaker Nabih Berri called for six parliamentary committees to participate in a series of meetings beginning on Dec. 5 to discuss on-hold draft laws.

As the second meeting kicked off Tuesday morning, MTV reported that President Michel Aoun and Berri had disagreed over the assignment of specific files to certain ministries.

The country’s prospective sovereign fund and the petroleum sector’s general directorate are reportedly points of controversy between the two leaders, as the two ministries with claims to these sectors – energy and finance – are helmed by affiliates of Aoun, in the case of the former, and Berri, the latter.

MTV also reported an argument had broken out at the beginning of the session between MP Mohammad Qabbani, who headed the joint meeting, and MP Serge Torsarkissian.

Torsarkissian had argued after a session last week that finding a solution to Lebanon’s trash crisis was a more pressing concern than pushing ahead the oil and gas sector file.

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Speaking after this week’s session, Torsarkissian launched a tirade against the government for its failure to devise a proper solution to the country’s dire waste management situation.

“We want something now – we don’t want to discuss future projects,” he said, adding that oil and gas may only be available for extraction in perhaps a decade.

Meanwhile, Qabbani announced the formation of subcommittees that will meet in the next months before presenting plans to the joint committee in January.

Three subcommittees were formed to deal with potential exploration of oil on land; the country’s prospective Sovereign Wealth Fund and general directorate for the petroleum sector; and the establishment of a national oil company. They will be headed by MP Joseph Maalouf, MP Ibrahim Kanaan and MP Yassine Jaber, respectively.

Qabbani reiterated that the formation of an oil company and a Sovereign Wealth Fund would not happen until the presence of oil in Lebanese territories is confirmed.

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