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Israel-Lebanon maritime deal set to be signed this week

Israel gives final approval for start of production at Karish gas field

PM Lapid lauds move to allow Energean to begin work as one that ‘strengthens Israel’s energy stability,’ as well as its economy

Energean's floating production system (FPSO) at the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. (Energean)
Energean's floating production system (FPSO) at the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. (Energean)

Israel’s Energy Ministry granted its final approval on Tuesday to gas company Energean to begin production at the Karish natural gas field.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid lauded the move, stating that “as we said all along, the production of gas from the Karish field would start as planned the moment the technical conditions are completed.”

Before the recent maritime border agreement was reached between Israel and Lebanon, the terror group Hezbollah — which launched drones towards Karish in July — had threatened attacks if Israel proceeds with gas extraction in the disputed area.

The deal is now set to be signed on Thursday.

Lapid said that the extraction of natural gas from Karish “strengthens Israel’s energy stability, advances our standing as energy exporters, strengthens Israel’s economy, and helps in contending with the global energy crisis.”

A spokeswoman for Energean stressed to AFP that while it had received the permit, it had not yet begun producing gas from Karish.

An Energy Ministry spokeswoman told AFP that Tuesday’s permit was the last formality Energean needed before beginning production.

An Israeli soldier stands near the fence on the Israeli border with Lebanon in Rosh Hanikra, October 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Israel and Lebanon are expected to sign the agreement — brokered by the United States and its energy envoy Amos Hochstein — in separate rooms at a ceremony on Thursday in Lebanon.

Lapid declined to bring the deal to a full Knesset vote, instead putting the agreement to a government vote before passing it to the Knesset for review ahead of a final cabinet vote this week.

Outgoing Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced earlier this month Beirut had formally approved the deal.

The agreement, which Lebanon hopes can help lift the country out of its crippling economic crisis, is intended to end a long-running dispute over some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea, covering the Karish and the Qana gas fields.

Under the agreement, Israel will receive recognition for its buoy-marked boundary five kilometers (3.1 miles) off the coast of the northern town of Rosh Hanikra, which it established in 2000.

After that, Israel’s border will follow the southern edge of the disputed area known as Line 23.

Map showing Israel-Lebanon maritime border claims. (AFP News Agency)

Lebanon will enjoy the economic benefits of the area north of Line 23, including the Qana gas field, while Israel will move ahead with its plans to imminently begin gas production at the Karish field and receive revenues from Qana if and when it begins operations.

Aoun called last week for French energy company TotalEnergies to begin exploring for natural gas in the Qana gas field as soon as possible.

Karish will join Tamar and Leviathan to become Israel’s third offshore rig providing natural gas, with each connected to the mainland by separate infrastructure.

Gas exports to Jordan and Egypt would be able to increase, the Energy Ministry said, “and from there to additional countries in Europe that need natural gas sources in light of the global energy crisis.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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