A source at the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said Wednesday that Egypt plans to auction exploration sites for oil and gas near its maritime border with Israel. The source noted that this will be the first time Egypt has auctioned exploration sites in the area. The source further said that the oil and gas exploration will be held in accordance with the maritime borders set by the Egyptian government which are based on the international Maritime Law adopted by the UN in 1983. He added that the reason for auctioning out exploration sites in such areas came in effort \"to stake Egypt\'s claim on the area.\" The Egyptians say that international surveys indicate that the fields could yield up to 223 trillion square feet of natural gas. Dr. Ibrahim Zaharan, an Egyptian oil expert claimed that the decision to explore the border between Israel and Egypt is \"long overdo.\" He said that Israel is working to establish a reality \"on the ground\" when it comes to gas and oil exploration, due to the fact that it has yet to sign the UN treaty on the Law of the Sea, which governs the management of marine natural resources.