After quite a few delays the "Shark" rig arrived in Israel and infuriated the Lebanese government


by Ifi Reporter Category:Government Jun 5, 2022

After quite a few delays, the "Shark" rig arrived in Israel and infuriated the Lebanese. The reason for this lies in the conflict over the economic maritime border between Israel and Lebanon, an area with the potential to find gas reserves that could dramatically improve the precarious economic situation of the land of cedars. In order to protect the rig, last week the Economics Committee approved a no-go zone at a distance of about 500 meters from the outer edge of the rig, and within a radius of 1,500 meters around the location of the rig. In Israel, they intend to produce gas from a shark reservoir as early as this year, to the displeasure of the Lebanese.
Lebanon's transitional prime minister, Najib Mikati, called the rig's expected arrival an "Israeli enemy invasion of maritime wealth," claiming it was a "very serious and dangerous move." He said, "Israel's attempt to impose a fait accompli in a disputed area could ignite tensions whose consequences are unpredictable."
The Lebanese record holder, Michel Aoun, spoke with Mikati ahead of the arrival of the rig, and later his bureau said that Aoun demanded that the Lebanese army provide him with official and accurate information about the rig on which it could be based. "Negotiations to draw the southern maritime border are still ongoing, and any activity in the area that is in conflict constitutes provocation and hostile activity," the bureau said.
Israel claims that the rig will be placed in an area under its full control and not in the disputed waters. Energy Minister Karin Elharar even welcomed the arrival of the rig and said she hoped it would start operating quickly. According to the British company Energian, which operates the rig, it is expected to reach the Shark Reservoir, located about 80 km west of Haifa, on Sunday, and begin operations during the third quarter of the year. They added that Beirut had only recently begun to claim ownership of the area.
The area in dispute between Israel and Lebanon is very small, relatively. This is 860 square kilometers of economic water, with a shark reservoir at their southern end, in an area controlled by Israel. For Israel, this is less than 2% of the total area of ​​its economic water, and for the Lebanese about 3%. Already in 2012, Israel signaled that it was ready Go towards the Lebanese and divide the rights in the region in a 42:58 ratio in favor of Beirut.However, so far no significant progress has been made in talks, which have been interrupted and renewed from time to time by American mediation since 2000.
In October 2020, by the way, a senior official in the Ministry of Energy said that this was a "technical-economic dispute that prevents the development of natural resources", emphasizing that "the intention is to resolve the conflict to pave the way for the use of resources for the benefit of both peoples". Since then, as stated, no significant progress has been made in resolving the conflict.
Lebanon, which is suffering from a severe energy crisis - probably the worst in its history - desperately needs to develop the natural gas reserves that may be in the disputed maritime territory. Citizens of the country suffer from frequent power outages and sometimes receive supplies for only a few hours a day. In addition, the development of natural gas reserves can help get the Lebanese economy out of the abyss it has plunged into in recent years, which includes a drop in local currency and tremendous inflation.
According to the head of the Center for Marine Policy and Strategy Research at the University of Haifa, Prof. Shaul Horev, "For more than two years there has been a kind of negotiation, more like mediation through American mediation, around the dispute over the whole area. "The Lebanese also want to start looking there. The issue is how to measure who owns the area. There should be an attempt to mediate on both sides, so that on the one hand the Lebanese will get something and on the other hand Israel will not be denied part of the area. The extremist positions are there and there."
Prof. Horev explained that Israel could not face international sanctions if it started issuing gas. "It's just like a dispute between two neighbors on the border," he said. "Hezbollah's extremist side can threaten an attack. Lebanon is not in a good economic position, so they let the American mediator enter the picture."
Prof. Horev believed that the conflict could be resolved peacefully and to the benefit of both parties. "There are currently negotiations that Hezbollah has allowed even though it could sabotage the actions of the Lebanese government," he said. "The mediator has proposals for mediation, but the problem has not yet been resolved."
The fear of damage to the shark reservoir stems from its proximity to the Lebanese border, near the area that is in dispute between Israel and the land of cedars. In light of the dispute between the two countries, Israel fears that the rig will be attacked. The no-go zone around the rig will allow Israel to identify vessels approaching it and thus allow it to respond well to possible threats from the sea. Before the regulations were approved, sources in the National Security Council warned that a delay in approving them "could lead to a real damage to the security of a strategic site of the State of Israel."
The political and economic crisis in Lebanon, it should be noted, does not allow the country to make a substantive decision regarding the maritime border with Israel. In the recent parliamentary elections, no political camp has achieved a majority, and as long as a legitimate Lebanese government is not formed, it will not be able to make serious decisions on the matter. Although Aoun allowed himself to threaten, in practice it is an empty gun: the only ones who present a firm and well-founded position against Israeli activity at sea are Hezbollah members. But even here, we emphasize, it is doubtful to what extent the terrorist organization will take a hostile step against Israel's strategic gas reservoir, an action that could ignite a major war.



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