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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Andrew Feinberg

Israel and Lebanon to settle maritime border dispute with US-brokered agreement

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Israel and Lebanon will settle a decades-long dispute over the maritime border between the two nations in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with a US-brokered agreement that will allow both countries access to valuable undersea natural gas reserves.

“The government of Israel and Government of Lebanon, have agreed to formally end their maritime boundary dispute and establish a permanent maritime boundary between them,” said a senior Biden administration official who said the deal is the result of “months” of negotiations to end the “long running dispute of multiple decades”.

Israel and Lebanon first started talks over the maritime border dispute over a decade ago, but those talks came to a halt in 2020. The US-led negotiations started in fall 2021 and continued through 2020.

The official said the renewed negotiations were part of “seeking for a different paradigm shift that would allow for a breakthrough”.

“That breakthrough happened over the last few weeks, and over a very intensive last several days and very long nights,” they added.

The official also said President Joe Biden has spoken with both Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Lebanese President Michel Aoun to offer congratulations.

“Both leaders confirm their readiness to move forward after this breakthrough, and to begin discussing implementation,” the official said.

“This is not been an easy negotiation but the agreement is historic. And we expect that there may be other difficult moments as we implement this agreement. Moving forward, the United States continues and will continue to offer its help in facilitating any discussions in the future”.

Mr Biden said the agreement would be a boon to both countries by allowing both to develop energy reserves that would increase stability in the Middle East.

“Energy—particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean—should serve as the tool for cooperation, stability, security, and prosperity, not for conflict. The agreement announced by both governments today will provide for the development of energy fields for the benefit of both countries, setting the stage for a more stable and prosperous region, and harnessing vital new energy resources for the world,” Mr Biden said.

“Persistent US diplomacy, paired with the openness of Israeli and Lebanese leaders to negotiate, consult, and ultimately choose what was in the best interests of their people, led to this breakthrough,” the president continued, adding that he congratulates “everyone involved”.

In a statement of his own, Mr Lapid called the deal a “historic achievement” and said it would “strengthen Israel’s security, inject billions into Israel’s economy, and ensure the stability of our northern border”.

Mr Aoun previewed acceptance of the agreement earlier on Tuesday when he wrote on Twitter that the “final version of the offer” would be “satisfactory for Lebanon”.

He added that the agreement “answers [Lebanese] demands and preserves [Lebanon’s] right to its natural wealth”.

The agreement, which was reached after negotiations assisted by US diplomats, only applies to the maritime border between the two countries. It does not have any effect on the 50-mile land border which has been the subject of another long-running dispute that is monitored by a UN force.

The Biden administration official said the agreement would provide a needed boost to the Lebanese economy, which is currently in a crisis which has left residents with fewer than two hours of power per day.

“This gives the country and the people of Lebanon hope, something that is desperately needed,” they said.

They added that the deal would give Israel “the kind of security and stability in the eastern Mediterranean necessary to continue to rely on those waters for a lion's share of the electricity in the country” and “the ability to export and be part of the solution for the global and European energy crisis”.

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