Report: Lebanon maritime border deal ‘almost complete’ as Israel offers concessions

According to sources cited by Al Arabiya, the Karish field will remain under full Israeli control, while gas produced at the Qana oil field will go explicitly to Lebanon

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel. Energean's floating rig arrived at the Karish field in June 2022. (Energean / Suez Canal Authority / AFP)
Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel. Energean's floating rig arrived at the Karish field in June 2022. (Energean / Suez Canal Authority / AFP)

A border demarcation agreement that will potentially put an end to more than a decade-long maritime dispute between Israel and Lebanon “is almost complete,” according to sources cited Sunday by the Saudi news network Al Arabiya.

According to the reported emerging agreement, Israel’s Karish oil field, which was erected in June in an area near the border that Lebanon claims is contested, will remain under full Israeli control, while gas produced at the nearby Qana oil field will go explicitly to Lebanon.

The Greek-French company, Energean Oil & Gas PLC, which is currently responsible for producing gas from the Karish field, will also be in charge of operating the Qana field, the sources said.

The sources also said that Israel will receive financial compensation from Energean over its profits from the Qana field, in light of Israel’s claims of ownership over parts of that field.

The sources cited by Al Arabiya, described as officials involved in the negotiations, portrayed Israel’s willingness to forego control of the Qana field as a concession that “came as a result” of Hezbollah’s recent threats over the issue.

With gas extraction at the Karish field expected to begin in October, the sources did not rule out additional provocations or attacks carried out by the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group before then, suggesting the group might seek additional Israeli concessions.

Additionally, Lebanon’s presidential palace said Sunday that the US official brokering the negotiations, Amos Hochstein, will arrive in Beirut later this week, according to a statement cited by Reuters.

Israel has sought to develop the Karish gas field, as it tries to position itself as a natural gas supplier to Europe. In June, Israel, Egypt, and the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding in Cairo that will see Israel export its natural gas to the bloc for the first time.

Energean’s floating production system (FPSO) at the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. (Energean)

The dispute over the Israel-Lebanon maritime border has been going on for over a decade. In 2012, Lebanon rejected an American proposal to receive 550 square kilometers (212 square miles), or almost two-thirds of the area, while Israel would have received the remaining third.

The disputed area — a total of 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea — covers both the Karish and the Qana gas fields.

Following years of stagnation, Israel and Lebanon entered US-brokered talks in 2020, aimed at resolving the dispute.

Hochstein said last month he was “optimistic” about the deal, and Lebanon’s foreign minister said he was more hopeful than ever about reaching an agreement.

The Al Arabiya report cited White House officials who have said that resolving the dispute is “a priority” for US President Joe Biden’s administration.

US Senior Adviser for Energy Security Amos Hochstein in a meeting with Lebanon’s caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad in Beirut on July 31, 2022. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

Israel, meanwhile, increased security measures around the Karish field in recent weeks, as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah repeatedly threatened to target the Israeli offshore installations.

In early July, Hezbollah sent several drones to Israel’s Karish gas field, which were downed by the Israeli military. And last month, Nasrallah warned that “any arm” reaching to steal Lebanon’s wealth “will be cut off.”

The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday that it would conduct a three-day military drill along the Lebanese border in light of the recent tensions.

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