Survey of Lebanon offshore gas field promises ‘positive results’
The outlook for Lebanon’s Qana gas field project appears promising, caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayyad said on Friday as authorities race against time to resume exploration work after demarcating the maritime borders with Israel in October.
Fayyad visited the Janus 2 ship at Beirut port, brought by TotalEnergies and its partners Eni and QatarEnergy to complete environmental surveys of the offshore Block 9 in the exclusive economic zone in preparation for oil and gas exploration.
“We expect positive results from the survey, but we must be realistic and await discovery,” Fayyad said.
During the past few days, Israel announced the start of its commercial production in the Karish field.
The Janus 2 has completed an eight-day mission during which it collected images of the seabed, and took samples of water and sediment.
It also monitored marine life in the area, providing data for an environmental impact assessment study, an essential step before drilling under international and local law.
The Lebanese are pinning their hopes on a successful exploration that will unlock oil and gas reserves worth billions, helping to revive the country’s faltering economy.
The local currency has lost over 120 percent of its value during the past three years.
The pound fell to 82,000 to the dollar on Friday, a day after protesters attacked banks and blocked roads in a display of anger over the deteriorating economy and sharp rises in the price of essential items.
Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said: “We understand what citizens are going through, but riots and attacks on public and private property are not the solutions.”
Speaking after Friday’s Central Security Council meeting, Mawlawi said that 90 protests had taken place around Lebanon since the beginning of February, 59 of which were against the prevailing living conditions.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who chaired the meeting, said: “We are doing our best to preserve the authority of the state and the prestige of laws, especially since all state departments and institutions are collapsing.”
However, he added: “After seeing protesters setting banks alight, I could not help but wonder if these were really depositors, or some people following certain directives to create chaos.”
Mikati’s media adviser, Fares Al-Jamil, told Arab News: “After apprehending and interrogating the protesters who set fire to banks Thursday, we discovered that they had no bank accounts whatsoever.”
Al-Jamil said that Mikati was following up on the issue and will seek to end the bank strike early next week.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah issued a series of warnings in a speech on Thursday evening, saying that it would not allow Israel to extract oil from the Karish field, “while Lebanon made no progress in this area.”
Nasrallah added: “If you try to starve us, we will kill you.”
He also threatened the US, saying: “If Lebanon is pushed into chaos, then the world must brace for chaos all over the region, most notably within your protege, Israel.”
Referring to the Lebanese presidential issue, he said: “No one can impose a president on the country. It is necessary for the state to continue looking for ways to solve the issue.”
A political observer described Nasrallah’s positions as “tense and linked to the deteriorating economic situation, which has worsened in recent days, even for the party’s supporters.”
The source said: “Accusing the US and holding it responsible for the deterioration of the economic and financial conditions is a clear attempt by the party to evade the responsibility of causing the collapse in Lebanon, by using the force of arms, disrupting the path of the state and depleting its resources to serve Iran’s interests.”
Hezbollah and its allies have criticized protesters since 2019, accusing them of following orders from foreign embassies
Richard Kouyoumjian, head of the Foreign Relations Department of the Lebanese Forces Party, said: “Lebanon is living in chaos because Hezbollah and its allies are obstructing the constitution, institutions and the presidential elections, while they fail to produce solutions.”
He said that “a serious solution begins with the election of a sovereign, reformist, non-corrupt president, who is not affiliated with the Hezbollah team.”