A dispute is building between Lebanon and Israel over their maritime border and huge natural gas and oil reserves beneath the Mediterranean Sea. The two rivals do not have diplomatic relations.
In a televised speech on Tuesday marking the fifth anniversary of the beginning of Israel’s war on the people of Lebanon in 2006, Nasrallah promised victory in any future military conflict with the Zionist regime.
“I tell friend and foe that our faith in God and the correctness of our choice cannot be shaken. (The resistance) is today stronger than at any time before as a result of the experience and victories,” The Associated Press quoted Nasrallah as saying.
“I tell you that the resistance’s strength in Lebanon today, in terms of its morals, cohesion, manpower and material capabilities, is stronger and better than at any other time since it was launched.”
“As I have always promised you victory, I promise you again that victory will be achieved,” he added.
It was Hezbollah’s first public warning of Israel since a long-simmering dispute over offshore gas and oil deposits in the eastern Mediterranean burst out into the open earlier this month following Israel’s approval of a map of its proposed maritime borders, which Lebanon deemed an aggression and an infringement on its right to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Daily Star reported.
Nasrallah talked about Lebanon’s natural resources in its territorial waters, saying the cash-strapped and debt-ridden country has “a real chance” to become a rich nation. Lebanon’s public debt is estimated at more than $55 billion.
He said when Israel demarcated its maritime borders with Cyprus, it infringed on 850 square kilometers of Lebanon’s territorial waters by adding them to its borders, adding that the area’s oil wealth is worth billions of dollars.
“With regard to the 850-square-kilometer zone, as long as the state considers it Lebanese territory, it is Lebanese in the resistance’s eye and there is no disputed area. There is an area that has been infringed on. Lebanon has a diplomatic opportunity to recover it through the border demarcation,” Nasrallah said.
However, he warned Israel not to attempt to capture Lebanon’s sea resources.
“We warn Israel against extending its hands to this area to steal Lebanon’s resources from Lebanese waters,” he said. “Until Lebanon decides to exploit this area, Israel must be warned against extending its hands to it.”
The leader of the Islamic resistance movement also threatened to target Israel’s oil installations if Lebanon’s oil facilities are attacked.
“Whoever harms our future oil facilities in Lebanese territorial waters, its own facilities will be targeted,” he said.
Nasrallah called on the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati to accelerate diplomatic and procedural measures to recover the Lebanese area.
“I call on the Lebanese people to support the government in this major national issue. If the state was able to extract money (from oil and gas resources), all the people would benefit from it,” he said.
Addressing thousands of Hezbollah’s supporters at Raya Stadium in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Nasrallah, speaking via a video link, said the Lebanese have “a real chance” to make their country rich.
“Lebanon has a huge wealth of oil and gas in its waters. This wealth is not the property of a certain sect or a party. It is a national wealth,” he said.
Nasrallah said that according to official figures, the oil and gas deposits in Lebanese waters are worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
“If the Lebanese dealt with this issue with national responsibility, we have a chance to repay our debts, improve our economy and raise the standard of living. Lebanon will become a strong and capable state,” Nasrallah said, drawing cheers from the crowd.
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman also warned Israel against taking any unilateral decisions to exploit Lebanon’s resources in the demarcation of disputed maritime borders, vowing that the country would defend its sea and land boundaries and rights by all legitimate means.
Sleiman’s warning came as Lebanon is gearing up to confront Israel at the United Nations in the dispute over offshore gas and oil reserves following the Israeli government’s approval earlier this month of a map of its proposed maritime borders.
Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said earlier this month that Lebanon would file a complaint at the United Nations against Israel, after Israel approved a map of its proposed maritime borders, which Lebanon viewed as an “aggression” on its gas and oil rights.
Israel will submit the map to the UN for an opinion. The Israeli map lays out maritime borders that conflict significantly with those proposed by Lebanon in its own submission to the United Nations last summer.
Israel has been moving to develop several large offshore natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, some shared with Cyprus, that it hopes could help it to become an energy exporter.
It is unclear what role the UN would play in determining the border. After Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000, following an 18-year occupation, the UN drew the land border between the two countries, though Hezbollah disputes part of it