Lebanon receives written US-brokered proposal for maritime border deal with Israel
State news agency says Lebanese president spoke with senior officials ‘to provide a Lebanese response as soon as possible’ on draft accord to demarcate sea border
The United States handed over a long-negotiated written proposal to Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Saturday to potentially resolve a maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon.
According to a tweet from the Lebanese presidency’s account, Aoun met with US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea and received the written proposal from US mediator Amos Hochstein for the demarcation of the maritime border with Israel.
The Lebanese state news agency said Aoun then contacted Speaker of Lebanon’s Parliament Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati for a consultation on the US proposal.
The report said Aoun discussed with the two “how to move forward to provide a Lebanese response as soon as possible.”
No details were provided about the proposal.
The maritime dispute relates to some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea that include lucrative offshore gas fields.
The US-brokered talks on rights to the area, the subject of long-running negotiations between Jerusalem and Beirut and repeated threats from the Hezbollah terror group, have appeared to make progress in recent weeks.
On Sunday, Israel’s Channel 13 news said security officials believe a deal will be reached in the next two weeks.
The television report followed talks Prime Minister Yair Lapid held on preparations to produce gas from the Karish field, amid Hezbollah threats to attack Israel if it begins drilling there before a maritime border deal is reached.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said last week that his Iran-backed terror organization’s missiles were “locked on” Karish.
Lebanon claims that the Karish gas field is in disputed territory, while Israel says it lies within its internationally recognized economic waters.
Earlier this month, Lapid’s office vowed Israel would go ahead and extract gas from Karish with or without a deal on the maritime border with Lebanon. Those comments came hours after Aoun said that indirect talks with Israel to end a maritime border dispute are in their “final stages.”
A spokesperson for Lapid issued a statement later that day saying: “Israel believes that it is both possible and necessary to reach an agreement on a maritime line between Lebanon and Israel, in a manner that will serve the interests of the citizens of both countries.”