Israel and Lebanon will settle a decades-old maritime border dispute between the two nations in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with a US-brokered deal that will give the two countries access to valuable undersea gas reserves.
“The government of Israel and the government of Lebanon have agreed to formally end their maritime border dispute and establish a permanent maritime border between them,” said a senior Biden administration official who said the deal was the result of “months” of negotiations to the termination. the “protracted dispute of many decades”.
Israel and Lebanon first started talks on the maritime border dispute a decade ago, but those talks stalled in 2020. US-led negotiations began in the fall of 2021 and continued until 2020.
The official said the renewed negotiations were part of “the search for a different paradigm shift that would allow for a breakthrough.”
“This discovery happened over the last few weeks and over a very intense last several days and very long nights,” they added.
The official also said that President Joe Biden spoke with both Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Lebanese President Michel Aoun to congratulate him.
“Both leaders confirm their readiness to move forward after this breakthrough and begin discussion on implementation,” the official said.
“It was not an easy negotiation, but the agreement is historic. And we expect that there may be other difficult times as we implement this agreement. Moving forward, the United States continues and will continue to offer its assistance in facilitating any discussions in the future.”
Mr. Biden said the deal would be a boon for both countries, allowing both to develop energy reserves that would increase stability in the Middle East.
“Energy — especially in the Eastern Mediterranean — should serve as a 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 to the benefit of both countries, setting the stage for a more stable and prosperous region and tapping vital new energy resources for the world,” Biden said.
“Persistent US diplomacy, combined with the openness of Israeli and Lebanese leaders to negotiate, consult and ultimately choose what was in the best interest of their people, led to this breakthrough,” the president continued, adding that he congratulates “all involved”. .
In a statement, Mr Lapid called the agreement 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 accepting the deal earlier on Tuesday when he tweeted that the “final version of the offer” would be “satisfactory for Lebanon”.
He added that the agreement “answers [Lebanese] requires and maintains [Lebanon’s] right to its natural wealth”.
The agreement, which was reached after negotiations with the help of American diplomats, applies only to the maritime borders between the two countries. It has no effect on the 50-mile land border, which has been the subject of another long-running dispute monitored by a UN force.
The Biden administration official said the deal would provide a much-needed boost to Lebanon’s economy, which is currently in a crisis that has left residents with less than two hours of power a day.
“This gives the country and the Lebanese people hope, something they desperately need,” they said.
They added that the deal would give Israel “the kind of security and stability in the eastern Mediterranean that is necessary to continue to rely on these waters for the lion’s share of the country’s electricity” and “the ability to export and is part of the solution to the global and European energy crisis”.