BEIRUT: Energy and Water Minister Jibran Bassil said Friday that Lebanon’s conflict with Israel and Cyprus over its maritime borders does not hinder the country’s oil exploration process.
“Lebanon's oil exists along the coast and not only in the southern coast, therefore the conflict with Cyprus and Israel does not hinder the process of exploration, which can begin in the northern part,” Bassil said on his Twitter feed.
The Cabinet approved Wednesday decrees to implement a law to administer Lebanon’s oil sector thereby opening the door for the government to draw tenders to start oil exploration off the Lebanese coast.
Bassil had lobbied for the Cabinet to pass the law and has said that drilling can start in three months once the tender is complete.
Both Cyprus and Israel are in dispute with Lebanon over their maritime borders. The dispute with the Jewish State is over a maritime area that spans some 800 square kilometers which is said to be rich in oil and gas.
In December 2010, Cyprus signed a memorandum of cooperation with Israel for surveying and mapping in joint research energy projects.
On his Twitter feed, Bassil also said that a ship is currently in the north exploring the undisputed oil-rich coastal area.
“Issuing decrees related to oil [exploration] culminates the efforts of the Energy Ministry over the course of a year,” Bassil added.
Lebanon has asked the U.N. to expand UNIFIL's mandate in order to assist the country in demarcating and protecting its maritime border with Israel.