Tensions are rising in the eastern Mediterranean as a dispute previously thought to have been resolved between Israel and Lebanon was back on the agenda when a statement from Greek company Energean touched a nerve with Hezbollah.
Energean, formerly known as Aegean Energy set up by a Greek businessman, announced last week that a floating production system had reached Israel, years after it had made its initial commitment to the country.
Reports said Energean hooked up a production ship to Israel’s Karish gas field, about 50 miles west of Haifa, with the company saying hook-up and commissioning operations were to begin immediately.
Hezbollah says they are 'not afraid of war' and can stop Israel from extracting gas from a field in disputed waters, but Israel says 'the rig will not pump gas from the disputed territory'
“We look forward to continuing our progress through Karish first gas, the commercialization of the newly defined Olympus Area and contributing to energy security and competition of supply for the region,” Energean CEO Mathios Rigas said.
But after the arrival of the Energean Power FPSO, Lebanon President Michel Aoun warned that any activity in disputed areas was “a provocation and a hostile act.”
Israel, which has dismissed Lebanese claims and carried out a joint military drill with Cyprus last month, says it is prepared to defend Karish, Hebrew for shark, said to contain 1.4 trillion cubic feet of confirmed and probable gas.
Negotiations on maritime boundaries have taken place between Israel and Lebanon, mediated by the United States, with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid saying Beirut had a lot to gain by advancing dialogue on the issue.
“The rig will not pump gas from the disputed territory,” Lapid has said.
But Hezbollah on Thursday said they were "not afraid of war" and could stop Israel from extracting gas from a field that Beirut says lies in disputed waters.
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also issued a warning to Energean, saying there would be consequences as "the Greek company is a partner in this attack on Lebanon.”
Washington has been working behind the scenes to get all the energy players in the eastern Mediterranean on the same page.
Unverified reports said American energy diplomat Amos Hochstein was expected in the region as early as next week to salvage negotiations and revive stalled talks.