Lebanon has submitted a letter of protest to the United Nations and the Security Council after Israel granted US oilfield services group Halliburton an offshore drilling contract in the Mediterranean.
Lebanon's representative to the UN, Amal Mudallali, submitted the letter to both UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the President of the Security Council, Ireland’s representative to the United Nations, Geraldine Byrne Nason, calling on the UNSC to "ensure that the drilling evaluation works are not located in a disputed area between Lebanon and Israel, in order to avoid any attack on Lebanon's rights and sovereignty."
The letter also called for efforts to "prevent any future drilling in the disputed areas and to avoid steps that may pose a threat to international peace and security."
The Halliburton Company announced last week that it would collaborate with Greek energy producer Energean on three to five well drilling and completions in the Karish North natural gas field, located near Israel's disputed maritime border with Lebanon.
According to Energean, the gas field is expected to contain about 1.14 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.
Lebanon and Israel are at odd over the delineation of their territorial waters in the Mediterranean and bilateral negotiations could lead to Lebanon, facing its worst-ever financial crisis, being able to unlock valuable gas reserves.
Since October, they have been holding on-off US-mediated talks in an effort to resolve the issue.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Saturday asked his Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib to ask the international community to clarify the issue.
“We will not back down on this issue or give up on Lebanese rights," Mikati was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his office.
Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA) also quoted the premier as saying that "there is no complacency in this matter, nor is there a waiver of Lebanese rights, and the United Nations must play its role in deterring Israel and forcing it to stop its repeated violations of Lebanese rights and Lebanon's sovereignty."
Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri also called on Lebanon's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take "urgent and immediate action in the direction of the UN Security Council and the international community to verify the possibility of a new Israeli attack on Lebanese sovereignty and rights."
Berri added that "the Israeli entity's undertaking commissions and concluding offshore exploration contracts for Halliburton or other companies in the disputed area at sea represents a violation, or even a blow to the framework agreement sponsored by the United States of America and the United Nations."
A foreign ministry statement said the foreign minister had reached out to Lebanon's permanent UN representative, the US embassy and other countries backing the maritime talks to make sure the Halliburton contract does not involve work in the disputed areas.