Lebanon to Review Long-Anticipated Maritime Deal With Israel
Lebanon’s president on Sunday said he was expecting to shortly receive a final draft of a proposed maritime deal between his country and Israel, days after the accord seemed poised to unravel.
In a statement, the office of President Michel Aoun said the US-mediated deal, which seeks to demarcate a maritime boundary between the neighboring foes in order to enable the development of offshore energy assets, would be reviewed and “the suitable decision” taken.
Also on Sunday, London-based Energean began a final phase of testing in the Karish gas rig off the Israeli coast, after receiving the greenlight from Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. The dispute over drilling rights in the gas field, which Israel maintains is firmly within its economic waters, has been central to the uptick in maritime tensions between the Mediterranean nations.
The Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah has presented the discovery of offshore energy assets as an opportunity for Lebanon to emerge from its deep economic crisis, and has warned Israel against putting the Karish rig into service before a maritime deal is reached, including by launching drones towards the field and releasing a threatening propaganda video.
The statement from Lebanon’s presidency follows reports last week that Israel dismissed “substantial” amendments by Beirut to the proposed deal, prompting Gantz to instruct the Israeli military to prepare for the possibility of an escalation along the Lebanese border. The Biden administration has reportedly pressured Lebanon to withdraw some of its demands.