In a move that retracts from the original Lebanese claims to Beirut’s maritime sovereignty, Lebanese President Michel Aoun officially accepted point 23 as the new starting point for maritime border negotiations.
The new negotiations represent a reversal from the original Lebanese demand outlined in Beirut’s letter to the UN.
That letter spelled out Lebanon’s claim to the demarcation area between lines 23 and 29, which amounts to 1,430 square kilometers, in addition to the original space between lines 1 and 23, amounting to the 840 square kilometers that Lebanon is entitled to under international law.
In an interview with Al-Akhbar on 12 February, Aoun said that he was working within the demarcation framework set by Speaker of Parliament and leader of the Amal movement, Nabih Berri.
Aoun said that point 23 was eventually marked as a maritime boundary, and that the decision “was not a concession, but our real and actual right.”
He said that “ultimately, an agreement that satisfies both parties should be reached,” placing the concession-making on the urgency of Lebanon, Israel, and the US to reach a deal on the demarcation line.
“We both need to demarcate the maritime borders in order to start work,” Aoun said. “Our need is double because we have not yet started exploration, as Israel did with its gas and oil.”
He also pointed out that “we are in an undisguised bottleneck in our economy.”
Aoun said that while Baabda Palace was the initial site for conducting initial negotiations, the decision would later be referred to the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives.
On 8 February, US energy envoy Amos Hochstein, who served in the IDF from 1992 to 1996, arrived in Lebanon amid a new round of indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel regarding maritime boundary demarcation.