A day after his new government gained a vote of confidence from Parliament, Prime Minister Najib Mikati met with President Michel Aoun to discuss the developments arising from the Zionist regime’s decision to grant US oilfield services group Halliburton an offshore oil and gas drilling contract in disputed areas in the Lebanese-Palestinian maritime boundaries. The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib.
It was devoted to examining the repercussions of the ‘Israeli’ occupation’s actions and the measures which Lebanon will take based on the letter it had sent to the United Nations in this respect, said a statement released by the presidency’s media office.
Mikati vowed to push for a solution to the maritime dispute with the Zionist entity so that Lebanon could explore and extract oil from its territorial waters to salvage the country’s ailing economy.
“Concerning the maritime border [with the ‘Israeli’-occupied Palestinian territories], I will do my best to revive talks on demarcating the maritime border in a scientific and correct manner,” Mikati said in a speech Monday night shortly before Parliament voted to grant confidence to his new Cabinet of 24 specialists, giving ministers a boost to get down to work on tackling a series of urgent problems facing the country.
“There is a scientific process that will be studied in a correct manner. But the decision on the issue is not in Lebanon’s hands alone. However, I will make efforts to reach a solution. In this way, we will have access to explore in territorial waters and we will begin extracting gas, [a move] that will revitalize the entire economy,” Mikati added.
Last week, Mikati asked Bou Habib to seek clarification from the international community after the Tel Aviv occupation regime commissioned Halliburton for offshore drilling contract in the Mediterranean.
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister had reached out to Lebanon's permanent UN representative, Amal Mdallali, the US Embassy in Beirut, and other countries backing the maritime talks to make sure the Halliburton contract does not involve work in the disputed areas, a statement by the foreign ministry said.
Halliburton's contract was awarded after a previous offshore well drilling campaign off the ‘Israeli’-occupied coast.
The indirect US-mediated Lebanon-‘Israel’ maritime talks have been stalled since May after Beirut rejected preconditions by a US mediator at negotiations.
Aoun said Lebanon’s delegation should only negotiate if there were no preconditions, as previously agreed. A statement from the president's office in May said US mediator Ambassador John Desrocher had asked the Lebanese delegation to stick to the previously accepted demarcation.
Lebanon, which began offshore drilling earlier this year and hopes to start drilling for gas in the disputed area in the coming months, has divided its expanse of waters into 10 blocks, of which three are in the area under dispute with the ‘Israeli’ occupation entity.
Mikati unveiled his new Cabinet of 24 specialists on September 10, ending 13 months of political stalemate that exacerbated the country’s economic depression.