(Photo credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Lebanon and Israel have agreed to a US-mediated maritime deal to demarcate the gas-rich blocks in the Mediterranean sea, seemingly putting an end to the prospect of an armed conflict.
In two separate statements by Lebanese and Israeli authorities, Beirut and Tel Aviv announced they have concluded all negotiations and will meet soon in Naqoura to sign the agreement.
“This is a historic achievement that will strengthen Israel’s security, inject billions into Israel’s economy, and ensure the stability of our northern border,” Israeli interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement on Twitter.
הגענו להסכם היסטורי על הקו הימי עם לבנון. מחר אכנס את הקבינט המדיני-ביטחוני ואחריו ישיבת ממשלה. טיוטת ההסכם עומדת באופן מלא בעקרונות שהציגה ישראל בתחום הביטחוני ובתחום הכלכלי.
מדובר בהישג היסטורי שיחזק את ביטחון ישראל, יכניס מיליארדים לכלכלת ישראל ויבטיח את היציבות בגבול הצפון.
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) October 11, 2022
A statement released by the office of outgoing Lebanese President Michel Aoun claims the deal “is satisfactory to Lebanon and meets its demands,” adding that it “preserves [the nation’s] rights to its natural wealth.”
In details revealed by Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Akhbar, all obstacles that led to a recent spike in tensions have been resolved, as both countries compromised with regards to the legal language used in the final draft.
The newspaper reveals that both sides agreed that Israel will be paid royalties from the Qana prospect field. However, the money will be paid from the revenue generated from the French oil company Total, not Lebanon’s share of the revenue.
As for the most pressing concern for both sides, Lebanon and Israel compromised in the legal language regarding the buoys deployed at sea to demarcate the various economic blocks.
According to the leaks, Lebanon insisted on adopting Line 20 while refusing to acknowledge that the line demarcates the maritime borders, but simply the blocks at sea.
Whereas Israel insisted on Line 31 which is going to be on the final draft between both countries.
Nonetheless, Lebanon will not acknowledge its effects on the land border demarcation, leaving the issue for indirect land-border negotiations.
In light of these developments, Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati met on 11 October with the Lebanese Minister of Energy, Walid Fayyad, and a delegation from Total.
The delegation included the Director of Oil Exploration and Production Laurent Vivier, who was informed about the results of the negotiations and received a request to start operations.
Total informed the Lebanese side that the logistics of exploration need time, promising to start “as soon as possible.”
Similarly, Israeli National Security Council Chairman Eyal Hulata announced that all of Israel’s demands have been met.
“Israel’s security interests have been preserved. We are on our way to signing a historic agreement,” Hulata said.
According to Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, the current state of alert at the norther border with Lebanon came as a result of credible intelligence information about Hezbollah’s plans to launch an attack had Israel started to extract gas from the Karish gas field before a deal was concluded with Lebanon.
Similar assessments were made by the foreign intelligence services of several western countries.
This attack would have fulfilled the promise made by the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, who reiterated on several occasion that only mutual access to the gas reserves will be permitted.
“Israel, the US, and EU all know we are not bluffing. They have enough proof of that,” the resistance leader said during a televised speech in September.