New Israeli oil contract causes outrage in Lebanon

Halliburton is returning to Israel’s Karish North oil field, but the announcement has angered Lebanese officials. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

An announcement by Halliburton that it has been awarded a contract in Israel’s Karish North oil fields sparked outrage from Lebanese ministers, who insist that part of the oil field is under dispute.

The oil field service company, which employs 55,000 people worldwide, last week put out a statement announcing that it had been awarded “an integrated services contract to execute a three to five well drilling and completions campaign for Energean.”

The statement noted: “The work follows a successful four well offshore drilling campaign that Halliburton previously executed in the Karish and Karish North gas fields.”

According to Energean’s website, the oil fields in question are part of its Israeli operations, with approval for drilling in the fields already granted by the Israeli government. The company details that the oil extracted will enter the growing Israeli domestic market.

But Lebanese ministers have reacted angrily.

“There is no complacency in this matter, nor is there a waiver of Lebanese rights, and the United Nations must play its role in deterring Israel and forcing it to stop its repeated violations of Lebanese rights and Lebanon’s sovereignty,” Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati stated on Saturday, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA).

Mikati has instructed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Abdallah Bou Habib, to contact international authorities to prevent Israel from going ahead with oil and gas exploration and drilling in the region, which it considers under dispute.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s House Speaker Nabih Berri called upon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take “urgent and immediate action in the direction of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the international community to verify the possibility of a new Israeli attack on Lebanese sovereignty and rights.”

He continued: “the Israeli entity’s undertaking commissions and concluding offshore exploration contracts for Halliburton or other companies in the disputed area at sea represents a violation, or even a blow to the framework agreement sponsored by the United States of America and the United Nations.”

On Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted that, at the request of the minister for foreign affairs, Lebanon’s representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Amal Mudallali, submitted a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, and the President of the Security Council, Ireland’s representative to the United Nations, Geraldine Burne Nason, regarding Halliburton’s announcement of the contract in the Karish fields.

According to the Twitter account: “Lebanon called on the Security Council to ensure that the drilling evaluation works are not located in a disputed area between Lebanon and Israel, in order to avoid any attack on the rights and sovereignty of Lebanon. It also called on Lebanon [sic] to prevent any future drilling in the disputed areas and to avoid steps that might pose a threat to international peace and security.

Israel and Lebanon began U.S. mediated talks regarding their maritime border last year, but negotiations became strained when Lebanon suddenly increased its demands by moving the proposed line much further south, into an area that would include part of the Karish North field.

Israel’s Energy Ministry has responded: “Israel is not drilling in the area in dispute. The drilling that has been taking place for several years is happening under license for Karish and Karish North, and they are not at all in the area under dispute.”