Lebanon, Israel sign accord setting maritime boundary

Beirut/Jerusalem, Oct 27 (EFE).- The governments of Lebanon and Israel formalized Thursday an accord brokered by the United States that establishes a maritime boundary between countries who have been officially at war since 1948.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun signed the agreement at his office in Beirut in the presence of Amos Hochstein, the US envoy for energy affairs.

Israel likewise ratified the text, Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office said.

The documents were then taken to the base of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Naqoura, the closest Lebanese settlement to the still-disputed land border.

In Naqoura, Israeli and Lebanese delegations presented the signed copies to US officials and to the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, who said she hoped the pact would “serve as a confidence-building measure that promotes more security and stability in the region and economic benefits for both countries.”

The respective delegations stood on either side of a table inside a tent at the UNIFIL base, participants told Israeli media.

“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,” Lapid said in a statement.

Aoun, however, described the accord as “technical” and said that it would have “no political dimensions or impacts that contradict Lebanon’s foreign policy.”

Talks on demarcating the maritime boundary began in October 2020, but quickly broke down, and Hochstein was tasked over the summer by US President Joe Biden with persuading the unfriendly neighbors to reach an understanding that would allow the exploitation of the trillions of cubic feet of natural gas estimated to lie in an offshore reservoir claimed by both countries.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement had vowed to prevent any unilateral effort by Israel to tap those estimated reserves with an accord on the maritime border.

Israel and Lebanon eventually arrived at a demarcation satisfactory to concerned parties in both countries – including Hezbollah – and the Lebanese government has already awarded an offshore concession to French oil supermajor TotalEnergies.

The agreement, Biden said, “will secure the interests of both Israel and Lebanon, and it sets the stage for a more stable and prosperous region.” EFE amo-sga-njd/dr

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