Lebanon will fully use energy block disputed by Israel: Minister

Lebanese Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil. (AP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Lebanon will fully use energy block disputed by Israel: Minister

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s energy minister said on Friday there would be full exploration in an offshore energy block that partially lies in waters disputed by neighboring Israel.
Lebanon said on Friday it had signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration and production contracts for two energy blocks, including the disputed Block 9.
A consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek signed the agreements for the two blocks, which are among five that Lebanon put up for tender in the country’s much-delayed first licensing round.
Israel and Lebanon have exchanged threats and condemnation over the tender, amid rising tensions over territorial and marine boundaries between them.
“Today, we announce that we have started our petroleum path ... after signing the agreements and launching the exploration activities,” Lebanese Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said at a ceremony in Beirut.
The first well will be drilled in Block 4 in 2019, said Stephane Michel, Total’s president for exploration and production in the Middle East and North Africa.
The second well will be drilled in Block 9 more than 25 km from the border, he said at the ceremony. “There is no reason not to proceed in this way,” Michel added.
Lebanese and Israeli officials said David Satterfield, acting assistant US secretary of state, was in Israel last week and in Lebanon this week on a mediation mission. US officials confirmed his travels without detailing his agenda.
Lebanon, which views Israel as an enemy state, has an unresolved maritime border dispute with its neighbor over a triangular area of sea of around 860 sq km (330 square miles).
The zone extends along the edge of three of the five offshore energy blocks that Lebanon put to tender early last year. Block 9 juts partly into the disputed waters.


26 Syria regime, 9 Russia fighters killed in Daesh attack: monitor

Updated 47 min 19 sec ago
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26 Syria regime, 9 Russia fighters killed in Daesh attack: monitor

BEIRUT: At least 26 Syrian regime forces and nine Russian fighters were killed in a Daesh attack earlier this week in Syria's eastern desert, a monitor said Sunday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the extremists had targeted a group of Syrian and allied Russian fighters near the town of Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor province on Wednesday.
"There were 35 pro-government forces killed, including at least nine Russians. Some of those Russian nationals were government troops, but not all of them," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The remaining 26 were all Syrian forces, he told AFP.
The Russian military is backing Syria's army with air strikes and troops, but there are also widespread reports of private Russian mercenaries on the ground.
The defence ministry in Moscow said Sunday four Russian servicemen had been killed in clashes with militants in Deir Ezzor.
It did not give a date or precise location, but the Observatory said it was the same incident as the Daesh attack near Mayadeen.
Two of the servicemen were "military advisors commanding the Syrian artillery" and were killed on the spot, the defence ministry said.
It said two more Russian soldiers died later in a Russian military hospital following the fighting. Three other troops were wounded.
The ministry said the fighting lasted around an hour and left 43 militants dead.