Cabinet Continues Discussions on Oil and Gas Decrees Wednesday

Newly-assigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks to journalists at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. Lebanon's newly elected president, Michel Aoun, on Thursday, asked former Premier Saad Hariri to form a new government, after he secured an overwhelming parliamentary majority to be named as the next prime minister. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Prime Minister Saad Hariri will chair a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to continue discussions on the oil and gas excavation file, media reports said Monday.

On Sunday, copies of the cabinet agenda were distributed to the ministers who will convene this time at the Grand Serial instead of at the Presidential Palace.

The first two meetings of the cabinet were held at Baabda Palace and chaired by President Michel Aoun.

The cabinet will convene in the absence of the President who will kick start his first trip abroad on Monday afternoon. The first destination will be to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The government approved in its latest meeting the long-awaited oil and gas decrees and appointed two successors to Abdul Menhem Youssef — the controversial director general of the OGERO telecom authority who was also serving as director general of investment and maintenance at the telecom ministry.

It issued key decrees to prepare the way for oil and gas extraction off its coast, after more than two years of political deadlock had stymied previous efforts.

The decrees authorize regulators to divide the offshore areas into blocks for drilling and exploration and to issue tenders.

Earlier this decade, geologists discovered a bonanza of gas reserves off the coasts of Lebanon and Israel, sparking a frenzy of development on the Israeli side to tap into the fields.

Lebanon’s government, beset by infighting and corruption, made only marginal progress toward that goal.

A portion of the reserves lies in territory disputed by the two countries.

The Lebanese militant group Hizbullah has issued numerous threats warning Israel not to tap into Lebanon’s gas reserves.