Amid maritime dispute with Lebanon, Israel insists it’s not drilling in disputed area

Energean working in the Karish oil field, offshore Israel, in 2020. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Energean working in the Karish oil field, offshore Israel, in 2020. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar issue a joint statement amid tensions with Lebanon over drilling in the Karish rig.

Lebanon and Israel — which have no diplomatic relations and consider each other enemy states — have been holding indirect talks brokered by the US for close to two years to resolve a maritime border dispute.

Lebanon reacted angrily this week after a new gas rig arrived at the Karish offshore natural gas field, which Israel says is part of its UN-recognized exclusive economic zone and which Beirut insists is in a disputed area.

“The Karish rig is a strategic asset of the State of Israel and is intended to extract the energy resources and natural gas in the State of Israel’s Economic Zone and to advance Israel’s green economy,” the joint statement says. “With its anchoring, the rig is located in Israeli territory, several kilometers south of the area over which negotiations are being conducted between the State of Israel and the Republic of Lebanon, mediated by the United States. The rig will not pump gas from the disputed territory.”

“The State of Israel prioritizes the protection of its strategic assets, and is prepared to defend them and the security of its infrastructure, all in accordance with its rights,” it says.

“At the same time, we call on the Republic of Lebanon to accelerate negotiations on the maritime border. Locating gas-based energy sources can greatly assist Lebanon’s economy and its citizens, and it is in the interest of the Republic of Lebanon to advance the dialogue on this matter. We hope that this will occur.”

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