Even though a deal on offshore rights hasn’t been formally finalized, Lebanon’s top diplomat said Friday that his country is ready to engage with Cyprus to develop possible gas deposits in waters between the two east Mediterranean countries.
Cyprus and Lebanon struck an agreement in 2007 establishing their respective offshore exclusive economic zones, but due to the country’s ongoing maritime border dispute with Israel, the Lebanese parliament has yet to ratify it.
Nonetheless, after talks with his Cypriot colleague in Nicosia, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib remarked, “With Cyprus, there’s no difficulty; whenever we find gas, we’re ready to go, put it together.”
“We discussed it, and I can promise you that Lebanon is prepared to execute it,” added Bou Habib.
The words by the Lebanese top diplomat come as Europe looks for new energy sources to wean itself off Russian gas following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum, a consortium made up of French energy major Total and Italy’s Eni, as well as Chevron and partner Shell, have been granted exploration drilling rights in most of Cyprus’ 13 segments off its southern coast.
To the north, Turkey is posing a serious threat to Cyprus, claiming much of the island’s EEZ as its own and sending warship-escorted survey ships into the area, drawing censure from the European Union, which Cyprus is a member of.
Following a coup by proponents of unification with Greece, Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, dividing the island along ethnic lines. Turkey is the only country that recognizes the Turkish Cypriot north.
According to Lebanon’s Bou Habib, a US written mediation proposal filed earlier this year aimed at resolving the Lebanese-Israeli conflict is “not adequate yet,” despite being far better than past attempts.
He claimed that the leadership and lawmakers of Lebanon are “all in agreement” on what they want from an agreement with Israel.
“As a result, the answer to the Americans will hopefully be quick, and it will be a single response,” Bou Habib added.
Any discoveries made within Lebanon’s own economic zone would be a long-term boon to the country’s struggling economy.
The World Bank has classified Lebanon’s economic crisis as one of the worst since the 1850s. Since October 2019, tens of thousands of people have lost their employment, and the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value.