Israel Cabinet ratifies agreement with Cyprus setting borders around area thought to contain natural gas, oil reserves.
FM Lieberman slams Lebanese rejection of borders: 'Hezbollah looking for friction, but we won't give up what is rightfully ours'
PM Netanyahu: Maritime borders proposed by Lebanon encroach upon Israel territory - Netanyahu says lines declared by Lebanon are further south than those determined in previous deals; Israel to submit coordinates on maritime border with Lebanon to UN
Published 12:21 10.07.11
The Cabinet on Sunday ratified an agreement with Cyprus which sets Israel's maritime borders.
Lebanon has rejected the borders set by the two countries, claiming the state is impinging on its naval territory, but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel would not cede "one centimeter".
Lieberman also denied reports that the US supports Lebanon's claims, calling them "nonsense".
"We have already concluded an agreement on this issue with Cyprus... Lebanon, under pressure from Hezbollah, is looking for friction, but we will not give up any part of what is rightfully ours," he said in a radio interview.
The borders delineate an area thought to contain natural gas as well as oil reserves.
Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said the Lebanese government was being petty. "If they have complaints with nothing but goodwill and neighborly desire for coexistence they must take steps just like any other civilized country – and hold clarifications and negotiations with us," he said.
Landau added that Israel had constructed a professional agreement by working with "international law experts and experts from the Cypriot government".
"The border between us and them has been unequivocally set – this is our legally and professionally-based opinion that will be placed on the table of the UN," he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Sunday to a recent dispute on Israel’s maritime border with Lebanon, saying at a cabinet meeting that the lines delineated in a Lebanese proposal are significantly further south than those recognized by Israel and determined in previous deals.
“The lines declared by Lebanon contradict both the maritime border agreement signed by Israel and Cyprus, as well as the border agreement signed between Lebanon itself and Cyprus,” Netanyahu said at the meeting, adding that Israel is actively working to clarify the border based on international maritime law.
Last August, Lebanon submitted to the United Nations its version of where the maritime border should be - the exclusive economic zone. In November, it submitted its version of its western border, with Cyprus. The United States has endorsed the Lebanese proposal.
The Lebanese proposal does not include the large Tamar and Leviathan gas prospects, operated by Delek Energy and U.S. company Noble Energy. But the National Infrastructure Ministry found that the proposal contains reserves with a potential value in the billions of dollars.
Israel has rejected the possibility of indirect talks via the United Nations to resolve the issue, calling on Lebanon to begin negotiations on all border issues, not just the maritime border. The foreign and infrastructure ministries believe that Lebanon is claiming vast offshore territories that belong to Israel under international law.
"It's important to provide the UN with the Israeli version of the border as soon as possible, to react to Lebanon's unilateral move," a senior Foreign Ministry official told Haaretz. "Not responding could be interpreted as a tacit agreement. We must act fast to ensure Israel's economic rights in these areas."
Israel has become even more concerned about the positioning of the border after learning recently that a Norwegian company has begun searching for gas in the area. The search is due to be completed within months, and the Lebanese government hopes to use the findings to license international energy companies to probe areas that could be in Israel's exclusive economic zone.
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