Israel’s energy ministry said Friday it was set to conduct tests on a maritime field claimed in part by Lebanon, ahead of connecting it to the Jewish state’s gas network.
The ministry “was preparing to connect the Karish reservoir to the Israeli system,” a statement said.
The gas field has been licensed to London-listed company Energean.
“As part of the next stage of the project, planned for the upcoming days, the rig and natural transmission system from the rig to the national network will be tested,” the statement added.
Officials told AFP the test would be conducted by transferring gas from Israel to the rig.
The ministry announcement comes less than 10 days after Energean announced it was “on track to deliver (the) first gas from the Karish development project within weeks.”
Israel says the Karish field is located entirely within its exclusive economic zone, but Lebanon insists that part of the field falls within its own waters.
The United States has mediated the dispute, which escalated in early June when Energean brought a production vessel into the field.
Last Friday, US mediator Amos Hochstein noted “progress” in the talks, but said that “still more work needs to be done.”
Lebanon and Israel, whose border is patrolled by the United Nations, have no diplomatic relations.
They had resumed maritime border negotiations in 2020, but the process was stalled by Beirut’s claim that the map used by the United Nations in the talks needed modifying.
Lebanon initially demanded 860 square kilometres (330 square miles) in the disputed maritime area but then asked for an additional 1,430 square kilometres, including part of the Karish field.
Israel claims the field lies in its waters and is not part of the disputed area subject to ongoing negotiations.
The powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, which launched drones towards the Karish gas field in July, had threatened attacks if Israel proceeds with gas extraction in the disputed area.
On Thursday, Israel’s national security advisor Eyal Hulata addressed Hezbollah’s threats, noting an agreement to export gas to energy-starved Europe.
“Israel will not be deterred by these threats and continue to realise its energetic interests, activate Karish and fulfil the important contracts it signed, including with Egypt and the EU,” he said at a conference at Israel’s Reichman University in Herzliya.