ISRAEL AND LEBANON REACH AN AGREEMENT ON MARITIME BORDER

  • Israel said on Tuesday it has reached a U.S.-brokered agreement with Lebanon to settle their long-disputed maritime border, hailing a “historic achievement” that potentially unlocks significant offshore gas production for both countries.
  • Negotiations between the neighbouring countries, which are still technically at war, had suffered repeated setbacks since their launch in 2020 but gained momentum in recent weeks with both sides eyeing revenue from potentially rich Mediterranean gas fields.
  • S. envoy Amos Hochstein floated a proposed final agreement earlier this month that Israel welcomed, but Lebanon had sought some adjustments subsequently.
  • A major source of friction was the Karish gas field, which Israel insisted fell entirely within its waters and was not a subject of negotiation.
  • Lebanon reportedly claimed part of the field and Hezbollah, the powerful Iran-backed militant group that holds huge sway in Lebanon, threatened attacks if Israel began production at Karish.
  • Under terms of the agreement leaked to the press. all of the Karish field would fall under Israeli control, while another potential gas field, Qana, would be divided but its exploitation would be under Lebanon’s control.

Historic deal between Israel-Lebanon: Terms, significance

While Israel is already producing natural gas at nearby fields, what this agreement does is that it resolves a territorial dispute in the eastern Mediterranean sea, in an area that Lebanon wants to explore for natural gas.

Agreement

  • The draft agreement, floated by US envoy Amos J Hochstein, who is the special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs and leads the bureau of energy resources (ENR) at the US Department of State, aims to settle Israel and Lebanon’s competing claims over offshore gas fields in the region.
  • While Israel is already producing natural gas at nearby fields, what this agreement does is that it resolves a territorial dispute in the eastern Mediterranean sea, in an area that Lebanon wants to explore for natural gas.
  • The gas field in question is located on the maritime boundary between the two countries and this agreement would allow both countries to get royalties from the gas. It also sets a border between the maritime waters of Lebanon and Israel for the first time.
  • According to a New York Times report, the agreement is also expected to avert the immediate threat of conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, after fears of escalation if negotiations fell apart.
  • The report states that analysts hope that the agreement will create new sources of energy and income for both countries, particularly important for Lebanon, which is facing a crippling energy and financial crises.
  • It could also have a potentially wider impact: it would likely provide Europe with a potential new source of gas amid energy shortages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

What the agreement does not address

  • The agreement does not touch on the shared land border between Israel and Lebanon, which is still disputed, but where both countries are committed to a ceasefire.
  • This border is also called the Blue Line, a boundary that was drawn up by the UN after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.
  • This land border is currently patrolled by the United Nations forces. According to a Reuters report, settling the land border dispute between Lebanon and Israel is much more complicated and this dispute lacks the urgency of the energy component. Also, any resolution with regard to this land border would likely depend on a broader peace deal that is not realistic anytime soon,

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

 

 

 

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