Lebanon has decided to issue permits to explore for oil and gas in Mediterranean waters whose jurisdiction is disputed with Israel, according to Lebanese media reports.
The permits are said to include an area designated as Bloc 9, which Israel has claimed as belonging to its territorial waters.
Attempts to mediate the disagreement at the United Nations and through the U.S. since the matter arose in 2010 have so far failed to resolve the issue.
The stakes could be quite high. A source affiliated with the Lebanese Ministry of Energy said that Lebanon estimates it has large gas deposits, “at least the size of Tamar,” a large reservoir in the undisputed Israeli region.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “We prefer to avoid responding, due to the sensitivity of this issue.”
The disputed area covers 850 square kilometers and is triangular in shape, with its vertex in Rosh Hanikrah and its base along the line shared by Israel, Cyprus and Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
An agreement signed between Israel and Cyprus in December 2010 accords with the Israeli claims, while a similar agreement signed between Cyprus and Lebanon has not been authorized by the Lebanese Parliament.