First Published: 2018-02-18

Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon
Israeli, US officials hold talks on conflicting claims to energy reserves off coasts of Lebanon and Israel.
Middle East Online

Israeli energy minister Yuval Steinitz.

TEL AVIV - Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz met Sunday with a senior United States official seeking to defuse an escalating oil and gas dispute with Lebanon, his office said.

A statement from his spokesman said Steinitz held talks with Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield about conflicting claims to energy reserves off the coasts of Lebanon and Israel.

The leader of Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah said on Friday that Lebanon was strong enough to withstand US and Israeli pressure and to put Israeli gas rigs out of action.

Last week Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas in a pair of offshore zones, including one that its southern neighbour Israel says belongs to it.

Lebanese officials have said the whole zone belongs to Beirut while Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has insisted it is solidly in Israeli territory.

Sunday's Israeli statement quoted Steinitz as telling Satterfield that "a diplomatic solution is preferable for both sides",

It added that the two agreed to meet again during the coming week.

Satterfield also held talks on the issue with top officials in Lebanon.

In 2006, Israel fought a 34-day war against Iranian-backed Hezbollah in which more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 120 Israelis, the majority soldiers, died.

Israeli authorities said that in the course of the fighting Hezbollah fired 3,970 rockets into Israel

Meanwhile work began on February 7 in Germany on four advanced corvettes for the Israeli navy "that will protect gas rigs and economic enterprises in Israeli waters", the Israeli military said.

It said that the "Saar 6" warships, to enter service between 2020 and 2022, would be equipped with helipads and advanced missiles.

"Protecting strategic economic assets in Israeli waters is a priority for the state of Israel," the Israeli navy's website announced last week.

In November, Israel installed a battery of its Iron Dome anti-missile system on a warship for the first time, calling it a valuable asset in protecting its offshore natural gas fields.

Israel has major gas fields off its northern coast and is building valuable infrastructure to get the fuel out of the ground and onto land, all within range of Hezbollah rockets.

Tamar, which began production in 2013, has estimated reserves of up to 238 billion cubic metres (8.4 trillion cubic feet).

Leviathan, discovered in 2010 and set to begin production in 2019, is estimated to hold 18.9 trillion cubic feet (535 billion cubic metres) of natural gas, along with 34.1 million barrels of condensate.


Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Natural gas in eastern Mediterranean fuels increasing tensions

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting

36 jihadists killed in Egypt’s Sinai

Israel arrests French consulate worker for gun smuggling

Pro-Turkish forces loot Afrin

Israel prepares to demolish Jerusalem attacker's home

Saudi crown prince says his country to seek nuclear bomb if Iran does

Arab women artists in diaspora focus on identity and loss

Tunisia’s Central Bank targets inflation but may hurt growth prospects

Libya’s health system reflects a larger humanitarian crisis

Israel blasts Gaza underground tunnel

Abu Dhabi awards France's Total stakes in oil concessions

Erdogan says Afrin city centre under ‘total’ control

Egypt tries to contain Sudan but challenges, suspicions remain

US defence secretary presses Oman on Iran weapons smuggling

Syrian regime retakes two towns from Ghouta rebels

Hamas shutters mobile firm after Gaza attack on PM