BEIRUT (Dispatches) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah is ready to act “including by force” against Zionist regime’s gas operations in the disputed waters once the Lebanese government adopts a clearer policy, the deputy head of the resistance movement told Reuters on Monday.
Sheikh Naim Qassem’s comments came a day after a vessel operated by London-based Energean arrived offshore to develop a gas field known as Karish.
The Zionist regime claims the field is part of its exclusive economic zone while Lebanon has started claiming it is on its territory.
Head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sayyed Hashem Safieddine had earlier said that the United States is the first side to blame for preventing Lebanon from gas drilling.
In a local ceremony in south Lebanon on Sunday, Safieddine said “Lebanon has potentials to extract gas and oil off its shores,” and called on the Lebanese government not to give in to pressures from foreign sides.
“The U.S. is the main opponent to Lebanon extracting its crude oil reserves and enjoy its own national wealth,” Safieddine, said.
He underscored that Lebanese authorities must officially and clearly demarcate the country’s maritime borders and settle a dispute with the Zionist regime that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich Mediterranean Sea.
Safieddine said some “ignorant people” in Lebanon are helping the United States “stonewall the exploration,” adding that political misconduct and corruption over the past few decades have led to the worsening of financial and economic crises in Lebanon and subsequent catastrophic repercussions.
“Lebanon can preserve its wealth and victories through resistance, which is the strongest and most viable option. The Lebanese nation needs to rise up and come together in order to find a solution to all major problems,” the Hezbollah official said.
Meanwhile, Lebanese caretaker Defense Minister Brigadier General Maurice Sleem has called upon the international community and the United Nations to “move quickly and put an end to the renewed Israeli provocations,” after a gas drilling ship arrived in disputed waters in the Mediterranean Sea to conduct hydrocarbon exploration for the Zionist regime.
Sleem said the occupying regime’s activities in the disputed area “constitute a challenge and a provocation to Lebanon, and amount to a flagrant violation of the stability that the southern part of the country enjoys.”
“Once again, Israel has flouted all international law and principles. It is trying to create a fait accompli on the Lebanese borders, especially as it foils attempts being made to resume negotiations aimed at demarcation of the southern maritime borders, in which the United States plays the role of mediator under the auspices of the United Nations,” the Lebanese defense chief said.
Earlier, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun warned the Zionist regime against any “aggressive action” in disputed waters.
He said on Sunday that any activity in the area would amount to an act of aggression and a provocation, after the arrival of the natural gas storage and production ship operated by London-based Energean.
Lebanese politicians hope that commercially viable hydrocarbon resources off Lebanon’s coast could help lift the debt-ridden country out of its worst economic crisis in decades.
In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for drilling in two blocks in the Mediterranean with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, Eni, and Novatek.
Lebanon and the Zionist regime took part in indirect talks to discuss demarcation in 2020. But the talks stalled after Lebanon demanded a larger area, including part of the Karish gas field, where the regime has given exploration rights to a Greek firm.
The talks were supposed to discuss a Lebanese demand for 860sq km of territory in the disputed maritime area, according to a map sent to the United Nations in 2011.
However, Lebanon then said the map was based on erroneous calculations and demanded 1,430 square kilometers more further south, including part of Karish.