Israel says it has reached an agreement with Lebanon over the sea border

Israel has reached an agreement with Lebanon over its maritime border, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Tuesday, settling the long-standing dispute after months of US-brokered talks.

The deal, which follows years of diplomatic negotiations between the archenemies, will pave the way for both countries to develop gas fields beneath the eastern Mediterranean, which have been the source of heightened tensions in recent months.

Lapid said the draft agreement meets all of the country’s security and economic interests. “This is a historic achievement that will strengthen Israel’s security, pump billions into the Israeli economy and ensure the stability of our northern border,” he said.

The Lebanese leadership, which is set to hold consultations on the draft deal, has yet to comment officially, but President Michel Aoun said on Twitter that the draft is “satisfactory”, meets Lebanon’s demands and “respects its rights to its natural wealth”.

Indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over the border resumed this year after a ship owned by London-listed Greek oil and gas explorer Energean reached the Karish gas field in the eastern Mediterranean in June.

Israel has always maintained that the gas field is in an area recognized by the UN as its exclusive economic zone and that it has the right to develop it. But Lebanon said the area was disputed, and last month powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah threatened to attack the field if Israel develops it before a maritime border agreement is reached.

An Israeli Navy ship patrols the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lebanon near the border between the two countries
An Israeli Navy vessel patrols the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lebanon near the border between the two countries © Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty Images

Hezbollah, whose paramilitaries are the most powerful in Lebanon and are viewed by Israel as one of its main opponents, has not officially commented on the deal. A media officer said the group “stands behind the state on this matter and what is required to conserve and conserve Lebanon’s natural wealth.” With Lebanon in financial freefall, its leaders have proposed the deal as an economic lifeline for the country, which has been plagued by currency devaluation and a banking crisis.

The lack of bilateral relations between Israel and Lebanon means that the deal will take the form of an Israel-US accord and a Lebanon-US accord.

The Karish gas field will be entirely within Israeli waters, while the neighboring Qana gas field will remain in both countries’ waters. A consortium led by French energy group Total will buy Israel’s stake in Qana so Lebanon can pursue its development.

A delegation from Total met the prime minister and energy minister in Beirut on Tuesday. Energy Minister Walid Fayyad said the consortium will start exploring in Lebanese waters once the deal is finalized and hoped the deal would give Lebanon its “right and full share” in the Qana gas field “without sharing it with anyone.” share,” according to a state media report.

Israel’s security cabinet and government will meet on Wednesday to approve details of the deal, after which the country’s parliament will have 14 days to review it before the deal returns to the government for final approval.

This means that the agreement could be officially approved shortly before the national elections in Israel on November 1st. Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Israel’s main opposition party, has accused Lapid of “surrendering” to Hezbollah and has vowed not to be bound by the deal if the next government materializes.

A senior Israeli official said it would be “massively irresponsible” for Netanyahu to try to reverse the deal if he won next month’s elections and that there was “a very clear security and geopolitical rationale” for doing so [deal] now”. Israel says it has reached an agreement with Lebanon over the sea border

Adam Bradshaw

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