BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's Energy Minister on Friday called on companies bidding in its first round of licensing to explore for oil and gas in its Mediterranean waters to begin technical discussions, suggesting the process would continue despite the political crisis.
Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned in a speech from Saudi Arabia last Saturday and has yet to return to the country, sparking a political crisis.
President Aoun has said he will not accept Hariri's resignation until he returns to the country, while the Lebanese authorities have said they consider the government to still be legitimate.
And Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said on Twitter that he signed a document on Friday calling on companies who submitted bids for the offshore license blocks "to negotiate the technical proposals".
Lebanon sits on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean where a number of big subsea gas fields have been discovered since 2009, including the Leviathan and Tamar fields situated in Israeli waters near to the disputed marine border with Lebanon.
Lebanon re-launched the tendering competition for the exploration and production rights in January after a three-year delay due to political paralysis.
However, a consortium made up of France's Total, Italy's ENI and Russia's Novatek, made the only offer in the tendering process which closed on October 12, with bids for two of the blocks.
The Lebanese Petroleum Administration has said it will evaluate bids for the offshore blocks and present them to the energy minister by Nov. 13. Final approval will then be sought from Lebanon's council of ministers.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Greg Mahlich)