HAIFA, Israel—Israel and Lebanon signed a maritime agreement on Oct. 27 that settles a sea border between the two states, which don’t have diplomatic relations and have been officially in a state of war for decades.
The deal, which has the potential to unlock additional natural gas production in the Mediterranean at a time of global energy flow disruptions, had been finalized on Oct. 11, according to Israeli and Lebanese officials.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Lebanese President Michel Aoun both hailed the U.S.-mediated agreement.
Lapid said in a statement that the deal is a “historic achievement that will strengthen Israeli security, will bring billions to Israel’s economy, and ensure stability on the northern border,” while Aoun wrote on Twitter on Oct. 13 that it “is a historic achievement because we were able to recover an area of 860 square kilometers that was the subject of a dispute.”
Aoun approved the deal in a letter signed in Baada, Lebanon, followed by Lapid’s signature on a separate copy in Jerusalem. A handover ceremony of less-senior officials took place at a United Nations peacekeeping base in Naqoura, Lebanon, along the border.
Gas Production Began the Day Before
Energean, a London-based energy exploration and production company, said it had started gas production on Oct. 26 at the offshore Karish gas field, located near the border between Israel and Lebanon.
The agreement places the Karish field inside Israeli territory, while providing Lebanon with full rights to develop the Qana or Sidon reservoirs nearby.
“We have achieved first #gas at #Karish. The gas will flow through our unique FPSO to deliver #energy market competition, #sustainabledevelopment & #energysecurity for the region & beyond,” Energean wrote on Twitter on Oct. 26.
‘Both Countries at the Same Time Producing Gas’
“What more can secure stability on this border than having both countries at the same time producing gas,” Elias Bou Saab, the deputy speaker of the Lebanese Parliament who was Lebanon’s top negotiator, told CNN on Oct. 11.
Amos Hochstein, the U.S. envoy who mediated the negotiation, told reporters he expects the agreement to hold even amid leadership changes in both countries. He referred to the Nov. 1 elections in Israel and the end of Aoun’s term on Oct. 31, saying the accord should be kept up “regardless of who is elected very soon as next president of Lebanon.”
Hours ahead of the signing, Lapid wrote on Twitter: ”This is a political achievement—it is not every day that an enemy state recognizes the State of Israel, in a written agreement, in front of the entire international community.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, a former Israeli prime minister and now leader of the opposition, said earlier this month that Lapid shamefully surrendered to Hezbollah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threats and that the agreement isn’t binding to him if he’s elected prime minister.
“The mission is over. What happened regarding the marking of the maritime border from the beginning to the end and the results is a very big victory for Lebanon,” Nasrallah reportedly stated on Oct. 27, according to a tweet by Roi Kais, Arab affairs correspondent for Israeli state-owned television channel Kan 11.
Aoun said the deal was purely “technical” and would have “no political dimensions or impacts that contradict Lebanon’s foreign policy.”
Lebanon doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and still considers itself at war with its neighbor, with laws barring contact with Israeli officials.
Tom Ozimek and Reuters contributed to this report.
Source: The Epoch Times