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Israel has no choice but to recognize Lebanon’s right to tap maritime gas resources: Top Hezbollah official

A United Nations ship is pictured in the southernmost area of the southern Lebanese city of Naqura, by the border with the Israeli-occupied territories, on October 14, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

A high-ranking official with the Hezbollah resistance movement has reiterated Lebanon’s unalienable right to explore untapped gas and oil reserves that lie in the eastern Mediterranean, saying that Israel must recognize this fact and not impede hydrocarbon exploration and extraction in the area.

Speaking at a ceremony in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh on Saturday night, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem underscored the need for the recognition of Lebanon's right to its oil and gas wealth by Tel Aviv, and said putting off the matter would not deter his group from performing its duties in this regard.

He went on to say that Israel has no other option but to acknowledge the fact, stressing that Americans also have no choice but to allow international energy companies to unleash offshore oil and gas production in Lebanese territorial waters.

“In case the Zionist enemy threatens us, we will stand in front of it like a solid bulwark. No matter what preparations it would make, were are truly more geared up,” Sheikh Qassem said.

“Everyone knows that Hezbollah facilitates coordination and alignment of standpoints between the resistance front and the government so that Lebanese officials assert the country’s rights on a strong footing,” the senior Hezbollah official added.

He noted, “Hezbollah, due to its strong belief in the teachings of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam and the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), drove Israeli forces out of southern Lebanon, destroyed Daesh and other Takfiri militant groups, and brandished the flag of truth.”

Earlier this month, Hezbollah’s secretary general said the Israeli regime will not be allowed to conduct drilling operations for oil and natural gas in the disputed area in the Mediterranean Sea until the Arab country gets what it deserves.

“Lebanon is facing a historic and golden opportunity to get out of its financial crisis. If we fail to take advantage of it, we will not be able to extract oil within the next 100 years. We are not looking for moral gains out of extraction in the Karish natural gas field. We rather want to tap into our oil reserves. There would, therefore, be no room for oil or gas extraction in the entire region if Lebanon does not get its right,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addressed a group of Shia Muslim preachers and scholars in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut.

He said the issue is of greater importance today, as it comes in light of Europe’s need for oil and gas amid the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine and Russia's move to stop sending gas to several European countries.

Lebanese politicians hope that commercially viable hydrocarbon resources off Lebanon’s coast could help the debt-ridden country out of its worst economic crisis in decades.

In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for drilling in two blocks in the Mediterranean with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, Eni, and Novatek.

Lebanon and Israel took part in indirect talks to discuss demarcation in 2020. But the talks stalled after Lebanon demanded a larger area, including part of the Karish gas field, where Israel has given exploration rights to a Greek firm.

The talks were supposed to discuss a Lebanese demand for 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of territory in the disputed maritime area, according to a map sent to the United Nations in 2011.

However, Lebanon then said the map was based on erroneous calculations and demanded 1,430 square kilometers (552 square miles) more, further south, including part of Karish.

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