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Lebanon's Hezbollah warns Israel against drilling in disputed maritime border 

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah says his movement will take action if Israel attempts to take oil or gas from disputed area
"If the enemy thinks they can act as they please before reaching a solution to this issue they are wrong," said Hassan Nasrallah (AFP)

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah has warned Israel against drilling for oil and gas in the disputed maritime border area between the two countries until the issue is resolved, and said his movement would take action if it did so.

"If the enemy thinks they can act as they please before reaching a solution to this issue they are wrong," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Friday.

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Lebanon's cabinet had raised the question with the United Nations Security Council through its permanent representative Amal Mudallali, and with others in the international community, after Israel granted US oilfield services group Halliburton an offshore drilling contract in the Mediterranean, asking to clarify whether the drilling would take place in disputed areas.

Lebanon and Israel are in dispute over the delineation of their territorial waters, and negotiations between the old foes could lead to Lebanon being able to unlock valuable gas reserves amid its worst-ever financial crisis.

Israel already pumps gas from huge offshore fields.

Shuttle diplomacy

The two countries have been holding on-off US-mediated talks since October to try to resolve the issue.

"I will not state any positions on this as I don't want to complicate the negotiations," said Nasrallah.

"But for sure, the resistance in Lebanon at the right time, through following this issue, when it finds that Lebanese oil and gas is in danger in the disputed area it will act accordingly."

Amos Hochstein, the US mediator for the indirect talks, visited Beirut earlier this week and said a period of shuttle diplomacy would precede any return to indirect talks between the two countries similar those held in October 2020 at the United Nations' peacekeepers' base in Lebanon's Naqoura.