Lebanon keen to explore offshore gas with Cyprus amidst challenge from Turkey
Lebanon’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said said the country is eager to work with Cyprus on exploring potential natural gas deposits in waters between the two east Mediterranean countries, even though an offshore agreement hasn’t been finalized yet. In 2007, Cyprus and Lebanon agreed to delineate their respective offshore exclusive economic zones, but the Lebanese parliament has yet to ratify the agreement amid the country’s ongoing maritime border dispute with Israel.
After discussions with his Cypriot counterpart in Nicosia, Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said that “there is no problem with Cyprus, once we find gas, we can get started and put the deal together.” “We talked about it and the Lebanese government is ready to go for it,” Bou Habib said. In response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, the Lebanese top diplomat’s comments come as Europe seeks new energy sources in a bid to wean itself off Russian gas.
Among its 13 segments in its exclusive economic zone off its southern coast, Cyprus has issued exploration drilling permits to ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Energy, a consortium made up of French energy company Total and Italy’s Eni, as well as Chevron and partner Shell. In the north, Cyprus faces an intense challenge from Turkey, which claims much of Cyprus’ EEZ as its own and has sent warships escorting survey ships into the area, earning condemnation from the European Union. The state of Cyprus was shattered along ethnic lines in 1974, when the Turkish army invaded upon a coup by unionists from Greece. Today, only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Cypriot north.
The discovery of natural resources within Lebanon’s own economic zone will be a positive step for the country’s troubled economy. The World Bank has described Lebanon’s economic crisis as one of the world’s worst since the 1850s. The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value since October 2019 and tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs with unemployment levels reaching 40 percent i.e. the highest in the world.