Israeli ambassador Michael Harari, attending the 2nd Levant Energy Forum by special invitation, arrived at the venue – the University of Cyprus – around 10am.
At 11.15am, on schedule, President Christofias arrived with Gebran Bassil, Lebanon’s Minister of Energy and Water Resources.
According to the agenda – which had been set well in advance – Christofias was to give a keynote speech, immediately followed by Bassil, whose address concerned the future of Lebanon as an energy producer.
Moments before the President was due to step inside the room, the attendees – industry delegates and media people – had been asked to stand up. It turned out to be a false alarm, because the crowd were then asked to retake their seats and to wait for the next cue to rise – which happened a couple of minutes later.
In the meantime, it seems, Harari was approached by organisers and asked to leave. He was told the Lebanese minister on arriving informed them he would not deliver his speech unless and until Harari left.
Once the Israeli ambassador exited the room, Christofias and Bassil walked in.
Harari confirmed he was asked to decamp the premises at the insistence of the Lebanese Energy Minister.
“It is a pity that it happened,” Harari later told the Cyprus Mail.
“I decided to leave in order not to embarrass the President,” he said, adding: “The organisers should have handled it differently.”
It is understood the Israeli embassy had received an invite to the event, and had confirmed to the organisers that it would be attending some two weeks ago.
Last year the embassy had tried to register for the event, but was apparently told there was no space left. The first Levant Energy Forum had likewise been attended by Lebanese officials.
Ironically, one of the forum’s themes was the need for energy cooperation among the region’s nations.
Israel and Lebanon are in a dispute over maritime borders, which concern their respective claims on offshore gas fields.
Although the two countries are legally in a state of war, Israeli and Lebanese military officials meet regularly in the company of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL to liaise on border issues.
Update: Here’s how it has been reported in Lebanon:
The energy minister said that as he arrived to the headquarters of the conference he knew that the Israeli ambassador was among the participants.
He noted that he previously told the officials in Cyprus that he wouldn’t attend the conference if the Israeli ambassador was there. So he refused to enter and take part in the conference.
Bassil also said there were attempts of compromise by the Cypriot side in which the officials there suggested that the Israeli ambassador would attend the meeting but without talking.
However the Lebanese minister refused, prompting the Cypriot officials to respond to him and respect his decision which led to the expulsion of the Zionist entity’s envoy to Cyprus before the entrance of Bassil.
Notice how they let their guard down and actually used the word “Israel”, before reverting to the more appropriate “Zionist entity.”
About the AuthorAn Australian immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave has been blogging since early 2003.
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