REFILE-Israel awards U.S. firm first licence to drill for oil on Golan

Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:41am EST

JERUSALEM Feb 21 (Reuters) - Israel has awarded its first licence to drill for oil on the occupied Golan Heights to a U.S. energy company, industry sources said on Thursday.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move not recognised internationally. The strategic plateau has been extensively settled by Israelis and is the site of a major wind turbine project.

Energy sector sources said that after Israel decided last year to allow oil and gas exploration on the Golan, Genie Energy was awarded a licence to drill. The New Jersey-based company still needs further work permits for drilling to commence, a process that could take years.

Genie did not immediately return calls for comment.

The Golan's status has been at the heart of past Israeli-Syrian peace talks, with Damascus demanding its full return. With a two-year-old Syrian revolt now threatening President Bashar al-Assad's rule, Israel has dug in on the Golan.