Saturday 24 Oct 2020 | 23:01 | SYDNEY
Saturday 24 Oct 2020 | 23:01 | SYDNEY

The Levant energy dispute


Rodger Shanahan


11 July 2011 12:10

As if they didn't have enough to argue about, Israel and Lebanon are squaring off over another border dispute. But this one may prove to be even more intractable than the arguments over the Shebaa Farms, because this time there are significant resources involved. The Levant Basin may well contain significant gas reserves and naturally there is a dispute over exactly where the maritime boundaries are and who has access to what fields.

Israel has been busily demarcating its maritime boundaries now that it has found significant gas reserves off the coast of Haifa, and signed an agreement with Cyprus over maritime borders in December last year. Lebanon and Cyprus had signed a similar agreement in 2007, although Lebanon now claims that an error on its part during negotiations resulted in the drawing of the incorrect boundaries, effectively shortchanging itself.

Beirut has submitted its version of its maritime boundary with Israel to the UN for consideration, with claims that it has been independently reviewed and agreed on by the US. On the weekend, Israel's cabinet ratified its maritime boundary with Lebanon for presentation to the UN. Not surprisingly, it is at odds with Lebanon's submission. No prizes for guessing that Israel thinks the boundary should be further north and Lebanon thinks it should be further south.

The US State Department has allegedly been placed in charge of trying to seek a negotiated solution, not only because of Washington's interest in reducing friction in an already fractious region, but also because US energy companies are heavily involved in the exploration and exploitation of the same reserves. 

One would like to think that a negotiated solution to the financial benefit of two adversaries has the potential to reduce tensions, but when both Tel Aviv and Beirut are starved of their own energy resources, this border dispute is about much more than a line in the water.

Photo by Flickr user UNKIEPAUL.