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Russia, Lebanon ink energy cooperation deal
October 11, 2013, 1:25 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in Moscow in January 2013 [AP]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in Moscow in January 2013 [AP]

Moscow and Beirut have signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the energy sphere after a meeting between Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil.

The two officials also discussed the prospect of Russian firms participating in the Lebanese energy market.

“It is the first step towards a complete relationship between Russia and Lebanon,” Bassil said at a press conference following a meeting with Russian energy companies and investors.

“We have seen a real, authentic desire [to be involved in Lebanese gas field development],” he added.

The possibility of Russian companies joining energy infrastructure development projects in Lebanon was also discussed.

Russian firms are already involved in the development of the Lebanese shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“Four Russian companies already tender in the Lebanese market, in particular in the area of shelf’s geological research,” said Bassil.

Rosneft, Gazprom, LukOil and Novatek successfully passed pre-qualification for tender bids in April this year.

The Russian firms are among the 46 international oil companies selected to bid to explore for gas offshore and who are estimated to have spent over $120 million on the bids already.

The tender includes 10 hydrocarbon-rich blocks off the Lebanese coast.

Beirut is expected to announce the licenses as early as February next year.

However, the recent energy finds in the region pose political problems for Lebanon.

The country is locked in maritime border disputes with Israel with the latter claiming many of Beirut’s offshore fields are located in its economic zone.

The two states have applied to the United Nations in an attempt to clarify the ownership of about 500 square km of maritime border.

Troubled by political instability within the country as well as on its borders, Beirut may choose to delay the license-granting process.

Meanwhile, Lebanon hopes to attract foreign funds into the country as the country’s public debt has already soared to $56 billion.

Daria Chernyshova and Agencies