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| 23 April, 2018

Lebanon's energy minister defends right to explore disputed Block 9

Lebanon has already started exploring in Block 9 of the potential offshore oil and gas reserves, and would continue to do: minister

Lebanon's Oil Minister Cesar Abi Khalil is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 14, 2017.

Lebanon's Oil Minister Cesar Abi Khalil is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 14, 2017.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil was quoted Saturday in a tweet by the Harvard Arab Alumni Association as saying that Lebanon has already started exploring in Block 9 of the potential offshore oil and gas reserves, and would continue to do, despite Israel disputing its claim to some of the area. “It is our full right to explore structures even if they extend beyond borders. Unlike Israel, Lebanon has never aggressed any structures. We’ve already started explorations in Block 9,” the association quoted him as saying in a series of tweets from the 13th annual Harvard Arab World Conference held in Beirut Saturday.

This is in line with previous statements maintaining Lebanon’s stance on its claim to offshore oil and gas reserves, with blocks 4 and 9 – part of the latter disputed by Israel – signed with energy companies Total, Eni and Novatek earlier this year.

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“It’s very important that the minister addresses the public about these things. This is part of the transparency,” said Laury Haytayan, MENA regional program manager and senior officer at the Natural Resource Governance Institute. “The elections are coming up, and maybe he wants to show his commitment,” she added.

Haytayan said she doesn’t expect the issue to escalate anytime in the near future, though, she added, it might next year when the companies begin their physical explorations of the blocks.

Total, which leads the consortium, has said it will drill in Block 9 but not in the disputed area.

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