President Michel Aoun signed a letter approving a landmark U.S.-brokered deal laying out his country’s maritime boundary with Israel on Thursday, its top negotiator told reporters.
Speaking from the presidential palace, Elias Bou Saab said it marked the beginning of a “new era” and that the letter would be submitted to U.S. officials at Lebanon’s southernmost border point of Naqoura later on Thursday.
Lebanon and Israel were set on Thursday to give final approval to a U.S.-brokered deal outlining their maritime border, a diplomatic departure from decades of hostility and a possible opening to offshore energy exploration.
The deal – hailed by all three parties as a historic achievement – is to be signed separately by top officials in Lebanon and in Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid following approval by his cabinet.
The negotiators will then gather in the United Nations peacekeeping base in Naqoura along with the U.S. team.
There, the United States will officially announce the deal as coming into force and Lebanon and Israel, which are still technically in a state of war, will submit their new border coordinates to the U.N.
An unprecedented compromise between the enemy states, the deal opens the way for offshore energy exploration and defuses one source of potential conflict between Israel and Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and could alleviate Lebanon’s economic crisis.
An offshore energy discovery – while not enough on its own to resolve Lebanon’s deep economic problems – would be a major boon, providing badly needed hard currency and possibly one day easing crippling blackouts.