The leader of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday Israel was not free to start drilling for oil and gas in the disputed maritime border area between the two countries.
"If the enemy thinks they can act as they please before reaching a solution to this issue they are wrong," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
Lebanon's cabinet had raised the question to the United Nations permanent representative and others in the international community after Israel granted U.S. oilfield services group Halliburton an offshore drilling contract in the Mediterranean, asking to clarify whether the drilling would take part in disputed areas.
Earlier this month, Israel's energy minister said that Israel is ready to renew efforts to solve its dispute with Lebanon over the delineation of their territorial waters in the Mediterranean, but it will not accept that Beirut dictates the terms of the negotiation.
The talks mediated by the United States were launched a year ago to try to resolve the dispute, which has held up exploration in the potentially gas-rich area. The talks stalled in May.
U.S. special envoy Amos Hochstein is due in both countries this month to try to give fresh impetus to the talks just as Lebanon has sought clarifications from the international community after Israel granted U.S. oilfield services group Halliburton an offshore drilling contract.
"We need to look for a solution that leads to a breakthrough and not try to think in the old ways of drawing lines," Israel's Karine Elharrar told Reuters in an interview in Paris, adding that she would speak to Hochstein soon.