Sea border deal opens access to offshore gas for Israel, Lebanon


Israel and Lebanon on Thursday separately signed a US-brokered maritime border agreement that paves the way for lucrative offshore gas extraction by the neighbouring nations, who are technically at war. Lebanon insists the deal has no political implications.

The agreement will come into effect on Thursday afternoon, after two exchanges of letters -- one between Lebanon and the United States, the other between Israel and the US.

The deal, signed separately by Lebanon's President Michel Aoun in Beirut and Israel's Prime Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem, comes as Lebanon struggles to emerge from what the World Bank has described as one of the worst economic crises in modern world history.

The border agreement comes as Lapid seeks the boost of a major achievement days ahead of a general election due in Israel on 1 November.

The deal settles a decades-long dispute about the precise location of the eastern Mediterranean border between the two states, which in turn determines exploration and extraction rights.

The exchange of letters is due to take place in the southern Lebanese town of Naqura, in the presence of US mediator Amos Hochstein and the United Nations's special coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka.

There will be no meeting of the two delegations.

Contradictory interpretations

The Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid, sounds very upbeat. “This is a historic achievement that will strengthen Israel’s security," he says, "bring billions into Israel’s economy and ensure stability on the northern border.”

Lapid has also claimed that Lebanon's acceptance of the deal amounts to a de-facto recognition of the Jewish state.

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