Lebanon anxiously awaits the visit of French envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian next month, amid hopes that the country’s long standing presidential vacuum gets resolved to ease the legislative and governmental hurdles preventing extraction of its oil and gas wealth.
The current vacuum at the top state post in the crisis-hit country prevents the parliament from exercising its legislative powers. The government continues basic governing work under a caretaker capacity.
Ministerial sources believe that Lebanon must grasp the opportunity during Le Drian’s anticipated visit in order to elect a president and pave the way for its oil and gas exploration in its territorial waters
They said that September is “a decisive month to end the dispute impacting Lebanon’s chance of resolving its crisis.”
Electing a president is a “mandatory beginning to implement the reforms and for placing Lebanon on the track of recovery by taking the needed legislative decisions and the necessary government stances,” they stated on condition of anonymity.
In October 2022, Lebanon and Israel reached a historic agreement to end a long-running maritime border dispute in the gas-rich Mediterranean Sea, following months of negotiations guided by the United States.
Lebanon is counting on its oil and gas wealth in its territorial waters to solve its economic and financial crisis gripping the country since 2019.
Ministerial sources say that Lebanon’s oil should be an incentive to end the presidential vacuum, but concerns still linger about political interference in the Lebanese Sovereign Wealth Fund approved by a parliamentary committee earlier this month.
MP Ali Darwish told Asharq Al-Awsat that all hurdles preventing oil exploration could be eased if a political will exists.
Darwsih told the daily that in the part related to the sovereign wealth fund in which oil revenues are supposed to be deposited, there is a draft law known as “legislation of necessity” ready and awaiting enactment in Parliament.
At the governmental level, the caretaker cabinet is “consistently convening and taking the necessary decisions,” Darwish underlined. The main agreement about oil exploration was taken before the end of the term of former president Michel Aoun, and oil excavation began based on that agreement, according to the MP.
But he lamented how Lebanon’s political status and instability affect the implementation and progress of many of the country’s major files.
The oil drilling process is supposed to end in late October, according to the estimates of the Lebanese Ministry of Energy.
Its minister, Walid Fayyad, said a few days ago that “Total and its partners (Italy’s Eni and Qatar Energy) are fully committed to professional work, and the expectations to this day are very positive.”
He also indicated the interest of the three companies’ alliance in “the blocks surrounding (Block 9), and there will be developments in this context, which we will announce when they are consolidated and crystallized further.”