Israel Leaders of each side separately said on Tuesday that Lebanon had reached a historic agreement, settling a years-long maritime border dispute involving major oil and gas fields in the Mediterranean.
The United States has been trying to broker a deal between neighboring countries over 860 square kilometers (332 square miles) of sea that has been in dispute for years.
It includes the Karish oil and gas field and the area known as Afaq Qana, which is expected to lie in Israeli and Lebanese waters respectively under the agreement. Israel said it would start extracting oil and gas from Karish and exporting it to Europe soon.
“The final version of the offer is satisfactory to Lebanon, meets its demands and preserves Lebanon’s rights to this natural wealth,” Lebanese President Michel Aoun said in a statement hours after receiving the latest Israeli offer through American mediator Amos Hochstein.
Aoun said he hoped the agreement, which has yet to be signed, be announced “as soon as possible.”
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said: “This is a historic achievement that will enhance Israel’s security, inject billions into the Israeli economy, and ensure the stability of our northern borders.”
Lapid said that the draft agreement meets all the security and economic principles set by Israel.
He said the Israeli prime minister will hold a cabinet session on Wednesday, followed by a special cabinet meeting.
Lebanese officials said that the deal does not mean the signing of any “treaty” with Israel and that this agreement is not a step towards normalizing relations between the two countries, which are technically at war.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lebanese negotiator and deputy speaker of Parliament Elias Bou Saab told CNN that “Lebanon felt that [the deal] It takes into account all the requirements of Lebanon and we believe that the other side should feel the same.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s chief negotiator, Eyal Holata, said: “All our demands have been met, and the changes we requested have been corrected. We have protected Israel’s security interests and are on our way to a historic agreement.”
Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad also said, on Tuesday, that the French energy company Total, which owns the contract to explore Lebanese waters, will start work in the Qana area “immediately”.
The talks gained momentum after London-based oil and gas exploration company Energean arrived in June to start developing the Karish field on Israel’s behalf. Although the Energean is located south of the disputed area, part of the field lies in an area claimed by Lebanon.
Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militia, has threatened Energean’s gas rig if they start producing gas before the deal is concluded.
On Tuesday, Hezbollah declined to comment when contacted by CNN, but the Iran-backed armed group said earlier that it would abide by any agreement signed by the Lebanese government.
The landmark agreement does not affect the land border, but is likely to ease security and economic tensions for both countries.
The head of the caretaker government in Lebanon, Najib Mikati, said, Thursday, that the agreement “will transform us from a specific war in the region.”
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