Lebanese President Michel Aoun received a long-negotiated written proposal by the United States recently to potentially resolve a maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon, who are still technically at war.
The draft agreement given by United States envoy Amos Hochstein aims to settle competing claims over coastal gas fields.
“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,” according to the tweet by the Lebanese Presidency account.
The Lebanese state news a¬gency reported that Aoun met Speaker of Lebanon’s Parliament Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati to discuss the US proposal and “how to move forward to give a Lebanese response as soon as possible.”
A maritime deal (relates to some 860 square kilometres (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea that include lucrative offshore gas fields) between the two states would help determine which oil and gas resources belong to which country, making the way for more exploration and helping in averting strife between Hezbollah and its sworn enemy Israel.
Hezbollah time and again has threatened Israel not to extract gas from the disputed sea area before Lebanon can move forward with its own exploration in a location that straddles the proposed borderline.
Lebanon attests that the Karish gas field is in disputed territory, while Israel claims it lies in its internationally recognized economic waters. Both countries have no political relations and their land border is guarded by the United Nations.
The negotiations on their border started in 2020, but the process was delayed by Lebanon’s demand that the map used by the United Nations in the talks to be modified. The US-mediated negotiations resumed in early June after Israel moved a production vessel near the Karish coastal field, which is partly claimed by Lebanon.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid told his cabinet on Sunday that the US proposal “strengthens Israel’s security and Israel’s economy…discussing the final details, so it is not yet possible to praise a done deal”.
“However, as we have demanded from the start, the proposal safeguards Israel’s full security-diplomatic interests, as well as our economic interests,” added the Prime Minister.
A deal would represent a rare political breakthrough between two states with a history of conflict.