Israel, Lebanon Argue over Offshore Block, Beirut Slams 'Threat'

Israel described as "very provocative" on Wednesday a Lebanese offshore oil and gas exploration tender in disputed territory on the countries'' maritime border, and urged international firms not to bid.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, whose country considers Israel an enemy state, 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," Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor 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 told an international security conference hosted by Tel Aviv University''s INSS think-tank.

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

One of the awarded blocks, Block 9, borders Israeli waters. Lebanon has an unresolved maritime border dispute with Israel over a triangular area of sea of around 860 sq km (330 square miles) that extends along the edge of three of the blocks.

"Lieberman''s words about Block 9 are a threat to Lebanon and its right to sovereignty over its territorial waters," Aoun said on his official Twitter account.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said the country would take up the commen....

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