Lebanon’s Speaker of Parliament Discusses Offshore Delimitation in Cyprus
3rd March 2012
Nabih Berri, leader of Lebanon’s Shia Muslim Amal party and Speaker of the Lebanese parliament, arrived in Cyprus on February 29 to discuss the pending maritime delimitation agreement with Cypriot officials and the development of natural gas resources in the East Mediterranean.
Lebanon and Cyprus signed a delimitation agreement in 2007 but the Lebanese parliament has yet to ratify it primarily because of its difference with Israel over the delimitation line between those two countries. The Cyprus House of Representatives has ratified the agreement.
The separate claims by Lebanon and Israel for their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZs) overlap in an area that covers around 850 square kilometers. Both countries have filed claims with the UN, declaring the coordinates for their offshore territories.
Cyprus, which signed a maritime delimitation agreement with Israel in December 2010 and is now negotiating a unitization agreement with Israel, has been drawn into the dispute due to the fact that the difference between Lebanon and Israel lies with the determination of an offshore tripartite point. Lebanon claims that the point should be one identified as Point 23, while the tripartite point in the Cyprus-Israel agreement is Point 1, which is to the north of Point 23.
While in Cyprus, Mr. Berri said that the problem was not between Lebanon and Cyprus, but between Lebanon and Israel, and added that if the difference between those two Levant states could be resolved, the Lebanese parliament would ratify the agreement with Cyprus “within 15 days.”
Several significant gas discoveries have been made by Noble Energy in the Israeli offshore, notably the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields, with reserves of 9.1 trillion cubic feet and 17-20 trillion cubic feet respectively. In December, Noble announced the discovery of the 7 trillion cubic feet Aphrodite field in Cyprus’ Block 12.
Noble and its Israeli partner Delek Group proposed last year the construction of a 15 million tons/year LNG facility in Cyprus that would process and export Israeli and Cypriot gas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Nicosia in mid-February, two weeks before Mr. Berri’s arrival, to discuss energy cooperation with the Cypriot President and other officials.
Lebanese politicians have claimed that the Leviathan gas field extends into the Lebanese EEZ and accused Israel of attempted to usurp Lebanon’s natural resources.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Minister of Energy and Water Jibran Basil on March 1 urged the Lebanese cabinet to take urgent steps to form the Petroleum Administration, which is necessary if the country is to launch its first bidding round. Under Lebanon’s hydrocarbon law, which was passed in 2010, the Petroleum Administration is to administrate the country’s oil and gas resources. The administration was due to be formed by the end of last year, and in January the cabinet issued a decree sanctioning its formation. However, the country’s bureaucracy is apparently making the formation of the group difficult.