Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. (File photo/AFP)
Updated 18 February 2018

Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon

JERUSALEM: Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz met on Sunday with a senior US official seeking to defuse an escalating oil and gas dispute with Lebanon, his office said.
A statement from his spokesman said Steinitz held talks with Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield about conflicting claims to energy reserves off the coasts of Lebanon and Israel.
The leader of Lebanese movement Hezbollah said on Friday that Lebanon was strong enough to withstand US and Israeli pressure and to put Israeli gas rigs out of action.
Last week Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas in a pair of offshore zones, including one that its southern neighbor Israel says belongs to it.
Lebanese officials have said the whole zone belongs to Beirut while Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has insisted it is solidly in Israeli territory.
Sunday’s Israeli statement quoted Steinitz as telling Satterfield that “a diplomatic solution is preferable for both sides.”
It added that the two agreed to meet again during the coming week.
Satterfield also held talks on the issue with top officials in Lebanon.
In 2006, Israel fought a 34-day war against Iranian-backed Hezbollah in which more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 120 Israelis, the majority soldiers, died.
Israeli authorities said that in the course of the fighting Hezbollah fired 3,970 rockets into Israel
Meanwhile, work began on Feb. 7 in Germany on four advanced corvettes for the Israeli navy “that will protect gas rigs and economic enterprises in Israeli waters,” the Israeli military said.
It said that the “Saar 6” warships, to enter service between 2020 and 2022, would be equipped with helipads and advanced missiles.
In November, Israel installed a battery of its Iron Dome anti-missile system on a warship for the first time, calling it a valuable asset in protecting its offshore natural gas fields.
Israel has major gas fields off its northern coast and is building valuable infrastructure to get the fuel out of the ground and onto land, all within range of Hezbollah rockets.
Tamar, which began production in 2013, has estimated reserves of up to 238 billion cubic meters (8.4 trillion cubic feet). Leviathan, discovered in 2010 and set to begin production in 2019, is estimated to hold 18.9 trillion cubic feet (535 billion cubic meters) of natural gas, along with 34.1 million barrels of condensate.


Lebanese women march in Beirut against sexual harassment

Updated 28 min 14 sec ago

Lebanese women march in Beirut against sexual harassment

  • Protesters call for law allowing Lebanese women married to foreigners to pass their citizenship to their husbands and children
  • Women also protest against sexual harassment and bullying

BEIRUT: Scores of women marched through the streets of Beirut on Saturday to protest against sexual harassment and bullying and demanding rights including the passing of citizenship to children of Lebanese women married to foreigners.
The march started outside the American University of Beirut, west of the capital, and ended in a downtown square that has been witnessing daily protests for more than seven weeks.
Nationwide demonstrations in Lebanon broke out Oct. 17 against proposed taxes on WhatsApp calls turned into a condemnation of the country’s political elite, who have run the country since the 1975-90 civil war. The government resigned in late October, meeting a key demand of the protesters.
“We want to send a message against sexual harassment. They say that the revolution is a woman, therefore, if there is a revolution, women must be part of it,” said protester Berna Dao. “Women are being raped, their right is being usurped, and they are not able to pass their citizenship.”
Activists have been campaigning for years so that parliament drafts a law that allows Lebanese women married to foreigners pass their citizenship to their husbands and children.
Earlier this year, Raya Al-Hassan became the first woman in the Arab world to take the post of interior minister. The outgoing Cabinet has four women ministers, the highest in the country in decades.
Lebanon is passing through a crippling economic and financial crisis that has worsened since the protests began.
During the women’s protest in Riad Solh Square, a man set himself on fire before people nearby extinguished the flames. His motivation was not immediately clear and an ambulance came shortly afterward and evacuated him.
Also on Saturday, outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri appealed to more countries to help Lebanon in its crisis to import essential goods. The request made in a letter to the leaders of Germany, Spain and Britain, came a day after Hariri sent similar letters to other countries including Saudi Arabia, US, Russia and China.