BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri called for the resigned Cabinet to convene and approve pending oil decrees and issue licenses for Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone, including disputed areas.
"We are not against convening a Cabinet session to approve oil-related decrees, which have already been approved in the preliminary phase before the resignation of the government,” Berri said during a televised speech marking the 35th anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr, the founder of the Amal Movement.
The decrees, demarcating 10 maritime oil exploration blocks and establishing a revenue-sharing model, require Cabinet approval before oil and gas contracts can be awarded.
Delays in issuing the decrees could postpone offshore drilling and exploration.
Earlier this year, Lebanon officially launched its first oil and gas licensing round with 46 international energy companies prequalifying to bid for offshore exploration contracts.
Lebanon and Israel both lay claim to roughly 850 square kilometers of maritime area that is said to be rich in natural gas resources.
During his speech, Berri said the blocks should be approved to fend off Israeli ambitions against, what he described as a "promising" resource for the country.
Berri warned against partially licensing the maritime blocks, saying: "Partial licensing will be interpreted as favoring Israel and its interests, while fully licensing the blocks would affirm our rights in the Exclusive Economic Zone.”
" Israel is signing agreements and seeking day and night to annex large areas of our resourceful waters ... while we seek day and night not to deter it but to deter the resistance, which is the only guarantor and refuge for the Army to protect this resource,” he said, referring to calls by March 14 coalition for Hezbollah to disarm.
Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil has repeatedly warned that Israel's recent discovery of a new gas field 4 kilometers away from the Lebanese coast means that the Jewish state could siphon off Lebanon's gas wealth.
“I ask [you] today to take some time and issue regulations, take executive technical measures to connect industrial and service-based networks together to distribute the oil and to think seriously about connecting the Tripoli and Zaharani refineries to Iran's oil via land installations which would generate thousand of job opportunities,” Berri said.