Iran Extends Ties with Neighbors

Iran to help Lebanon find natural gas, and will resume flights to Egypt.

Elad Benari, | updated: 01:13

Oil drilling in southern Israel
Oil drilling in southern Israel
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Islamic Republic of Iran is strengthening its ties with its area neighbors, particularly Lebanon and Egypt.

According to a report on Monday in Iranian media, Lebanon’s and Iran’s energy ministers have reached an agreement over oil and gas exploration efforts in Lebanese economic waters, according to which Iran will be involved in the search for gas and oil close to the border with Israel.

The two countries will set up a joint project to look for oil and gas in Lebanese economic waters, using Iran’s engineering experience.

The cooperation between the two countries was announced after Israel discovered two sources of natural gas on its territory. In January of 2009, Houston-based Noble Energy company announced the discovery of a huge deposit of natural gas under the Mediterranean Sea near Haifa. At the time, it was estimated that the Tamar drilling site held enough gas to allow Israel to be self-sufficient in energy for two decades, but in June it was published that there is likely even more gas on the site than originally thought.

A second giant field near the Haifa coast, the Leviathan, was reported in August to have a potential of 4 billion barrels of “black gold.”

Though Lebanon has claimed that both the Leviathan and Tamar fields belong to it, reports from Iran now indicate that Lebanon intends to look for gas in its own waters in the hope of finding reserves, rather than take action over its claims.

Through this project, Iran could deepen its involvement in the region and strengthen Lebanon's dependence on Tehran. Iranian oil minister Masoud Mirkazemi confirmed the reports to the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network and added that a meeting would take place soon among Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to discuss the possibility of purchasing gas from the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, it appears as though ties are also warming up between Iran and Egypt. The two countries announced that direct flights between Cairo and Tehran would resume for the first time since 1980. 28 weekly flights would resume between the two capitals, though it is currently not known when this will begin.

Iranian media said that the move could be a prelude to the resumption of formal ties between Iran and Egypt.

The two countries have been at odds since 1979’s Islamic Revolution in Iran, when Egypt gave asylum to the deposed Shah of Iran.