Israel threatens Lebanon over Iran ties, offshore oil exploration

Israel threatens Lebanon over Iran ties, offshore oil exploration
Israel's defence minister said that Lebanon had sacrificed its national interests by 'subjugating fully' to Iran amid an offshore gas field row.
2 min read
31 January, 2018
Hariri described Lieberman's words as "blatant provocation" [AFP]
Lebanon will "pay the full price" for Iran's entrenchment, Israel warned on Wednesday, should a war erupt again between the two countries.

Israeli defence minister Avidgor Lieberman said that by subjugating fully to Iran, Hizballah guerrillas have sacrificed Lebanon's national interests, making the country fair game in a future war.

"If citizens of Tel Aviv are forced to sit in shelters, all of Beirut will too" said Lieberman to the Institute for National Security Studies' annual conference.

Earlier in the week ahead of a scheduled visit to the Russian capital, Netanyahu said Iran was trying to "turn Lebanon into one big missile site, a site for manufacturing precision missiles against the State of Israel." 

"This is something we are not prepared to tolerate," he added.

The threats come at the same time as Israel urged international firms to not bid on a Lebanese offshore oil and gas exploration tender, a move it described as "very provocative."

The gas field lies on disputed territory on the countries' maritime border.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun described the comments as a "threat to Lebanon."

"When they issue a tender on a gas field, including Block 9, which by any standard is ours - this is very, very challenging and provocative conduct here," Lieberman said.

Respectable firms bidding on the tender "are, to my mind, making a grave error - because this is contrary to all of the rules and all protocol in cases like this," he added at an international security conference hosted by Tel Aviv University's INSS think-tank.

In December, Lebanon approved a bid in the country's first oil and gas offshore licensing round by France's Total, Italy's Eni and Russia's Novatek for two of the five blocks put up for tender.

Lebanon and Israel disagree over a triangular area of sea that extends along the edge of three of the blocks, and one of the awarded blocks, Block 9, borders Israeli waters.

In response, Lebanon's president tweeted, "Lieberman's words about Block 9 are a threat to Lebanon and its right to sovereignty over its territorial waters."

Saad al-Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister said the country would take up the comments with the "relevant international bodies to affirm its right to act in its territorial waters."

In a statement, Hariri added, "for the past few days, Israeli officials have been deliberately sending threatening messages to Lebanon," and described Lieberman's words as "blatant provocation."