By BASSEM MROUE
BEIRUT (AP) â¿¿ Cyprus has offered to mediate between Lebanon and Israel over a maritime border dispute that is delaying some oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean, a Cypriot official said Monday.
Both Lebanon and Israel claim a small maritime area of 850 square kilometers. The dispute has held up ratification of the 2007 Lebanese-Cypriot agreement, defining Exclusive Economic Zones among the three countries. It has also led to bitter exchanges and threats between Israel and Lebanon.
Neither immediately commented on the mediation offer from Cyprus.Lebanon and Israel remain technically in a state of war and have fought several battles over the past four decades. "We are already involved in this sort of thing to help as much as we can," Solon Kassinis, director of the Department of Energy in Cyprus, told The Associated Press about mediating between Israel and Lebanon. He spoke in Beirut while taking part in the Lebanon International Oil and Gas Summit. Kassinis said it would it be unfortunate if the negotiations ended abruptly between Lebanon and Israel. Instead, he said, Lebanon should take whatever Israel is offering as a first step, and then continue negotiating. Kassinis said the agreement which Cyprus and Lebanon signed 2007 "should be concluded and should be sent to the parliament to be ratified as we did in Cyprus." Lebanon says that a bilateral agreement signed in 2010 between Cyprus and Israel and ratified a year later conflicts with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Lebanon demands that it be amended in accordance with international laws that govern the demarcation of maritime borders among states. Israel insists that its undersea oil development projects are all in its territorial waters. Kassinis said many people are talking about future generations, but they should address that when they have surplus funds available.