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Israel, Lebanon to sign maritime boundary deal Thursday afternoon at UN base

Energy Ministry director general to head delegation after cabinet approves agreement; gas production begins in Karish field

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

French U.N. peacekeepers walk on a road that leads to a United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon position, in the southern coastal border Lebanese-Israeli town of Naqoura, Lebanon, Monday, June 6, 2022. The Lebanese government invited on Monday a U.S. envoy mediating between Lebanon and Israel over their disputed maritime border to return to Beirut as soon as possible to work out an agreement amid rising tensions along the border. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
French U.N. peacekeepers walk on a road that leads to a United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon position, in the southern coastal border Lebanese-Israeli town of Naqoura, Lebanon, Monday, June 6, 2022. The Lebanese government invited on Monday a U.S. envoy mediating between Lebanon and Israel over their disputed maritime border to return to Beirut as soon as possible to work out an agreement amid rising tensions along the border. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Israel and Lebanon are slated to sign their maritime boundary agreement at 3 p.m. local time on Thursday at the United Nations base in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Wednesday afternoon.

Israel’s cabinet still has to approve the deal at its 10:30 a.m. meeting in Jerusalem that morning, and is expected to do so overwhelmingly.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid will sign the agreement in his office at noon, after which the Israeli negotiating team will take part in the afternoon ceremony along with a Lebanese delegation, US special envoy Amos Hochstein, and UN officials.

France’s envoy to Lebanon Anne Grillo will also attend, the Quai d’Orsay announced late Wednesday afternoon. French President Emmanuel Macron played an active role in mediating talks, one that Lapid publicly thanked him for.

The Israeli delegation will be led by Energy Ministry Director-General Lior Schillat, and will include Foreign Ministry political director Aliza Bin-Noun, National Security Council deputy head Avivit Bar-Ilan, and an IDF representative.

As of now, Israeli and Lebanese officials are set to sit in the same room during the signing ceremony, said Israeli officials, but that may change. Israel and Lebanon are technically at war and have no diplomatic ties.

The Israeli team will make a statement to the press at 5 p.m. at the Lebanon-Israel border.

Map showing Israel-Lebanon maritime border claims. (AFP News Agency)

Hochstein will then travel south to Jerusalem for a 7 p.m. meeting with Lapid.

Once the agreement is inked, Jerusalem and Beirut will send letters to the United Nations laying out the terms of the deal.

The signing ceremony will come a day after gas production started at Karish, the offshore field at the center of the deal.

“Gas is being produced from the Karish Main-02 well and the flow of gas is being steadily ramped up,” a statement from London-listed Energean said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid flies over the Karish gas field on July 19, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Under the agreement, Israel will receive recognition for its buoy-marked boundary five kilometers (3.1 miles) off the coast of the northern town of Rosh Hanikra, which it established in 2000. After that, the boundary will follow the southern edge of the disputed area known as Line 23.

Lebanon will enjoy the economic benefits of the area north of Line 23, including the Qana gas field, while Israel moves ahead with gas production at Karish.

AFP contributed to this report. 

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