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Israel, Lebanon sign US-brokered maritime border deal | News


The two neighbors do not have formal relations, but a maritime agreement opens up the possibility of exploiting reserves in the gas-rich Mediterranean Sea.

Israel and Lebanon have officially adopted a US-brokered deal drawing their maritime boundaries for the first time, opening up the possibility for both countries to conduct offshore energy exploration.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun signed a letter at the presidential palace on Thursday morning and will be presented to US officials at Lebanon’s southernmost border point, Naqoura, later in the day.

Lebanon’s top negotiator Elias Bou Saab said the agreement to end a lengthy maritime border dispute in the gas-rich Mediterranean Sea marked the beginning of a “new era”.

The Israeli government also approved the deal on Thursday, a statement from Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office said.

Lapid said the agreement is a “political achievement” for Tel Aviv because “it is not every day that the enemy recognizes the State of Israel, in a written agreement, before the entire international community”.

The deal came after months of indirect negotiations brokered by Amos Hochstein, the US special envoy for energy affairs.

The two countries have no diplomatic relations and have been officially at war since Israel’s founding in 1948.

Beirut has sought to avoid framing the deal as normalized with Israel, insisting that another addendum scheduled to be signed by both sides at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura late on Thursday will be signed in the coming days. separate room.

The agreement is expected to go into effect late Thursday, after the US representative at the United Nations peacekeeping mission formally notified both sides of their approval.

With Lebanon’s economy completely collapsing, Beirut sees the demarcation of its maritime borders along 23rd Street as an opportunity to unlock foreign investment and get the country out of the country. spiral economic crisis.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib told Al Jazeera that “the Lebanese people have great hopes that their country will become a gas-producing country”.

However, he noted that it will take time for Lebanon to start extracting gas, and that gas reserves in its offshore reservoir remain unproven.

Bou Habib confirmed reports that the Lebanese government had given temporary control to French oil company TotalEnergies over a previously disputed offshore gas block.

“TotalEnergies and its partners must start working in the areas that have been agreed with the Lebanese government, namely block 9 in the Qana sector,” he said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Israel was granted full exploration rights for the Karish field, which is estimated to have natural gas reserves of 2.4 trillion cubic feet (68 billion cubic meters).

In return, Lebanon received full rights in the Qana field but agreed to allow Israel to share the royalties through a side agreement with French company TotalEnergies for the field expansion beyond the agreed maritime borders. .

Critics of the deal say it fails to resolve the issue of profit sharing but deny agreeing on royalties Israel will receive from the Qana mine until a future date.

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