Lebanon Speaker Nabih Berri says maritime deal draft is 'positive'

US mediator Amos Hochstein has written to Beirut on proposals for demarcation of the Lebanon-Israel boundary

Lebanese Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri arrives to attend the cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
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Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has described a draft of the US-brokered deal demarcating a disputed maritime border with Israel as positive.

On Saturday, the Lebanese presidency said Beirut had received a letter from US mediator Amos Hochstein on proposals for demarcation of the boundary.

Mr Hochstein has been attempting to seal a deal that would allow offshore energy exploration and defuse one potential source of conflict between Israel and the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

In a tweet, the US embassy in Beirut said ambassador Dorothy Shea had met President Michel Aoun, Mr Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati “to provide the US proposal for a final agreement on the maritime boundary line”.

Mr Berri, a Hezbollah ally and one of Lebanon's most influential politicians, told Asharq Al Awsat newspaper the draft of the final agreement was positive, according a statement circulated by his office.

He said the draft “meets in principle the Lebanese demands”, which reject the maritime boundary deal having any impact on the land border between the two countries, it said.

Mr Berri said the agreement was 10 pages and in English and “would require study before the final response to it is given”.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Saturday the receipt of the letter was “a very important step” and the coming days would be crucial.

The heavily armed Hezbollah, which last fought a major war with Israel in 2006, has warned against any Israeli exploration and extraction in the disputed waters.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the US proposal at a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, saying the plan for resolving a long-running dispute would lift Israel’s economy and boost regional security.

Mr Lapid said the proposal, which was delivered to both Israel and Lebanon over the weekend, would strengthen Israel’s northern areas near the Lebanese border, allow Israel to produce additional natural gas and deliver new revenues to the national coffers.

“This is a deal that strengthens Israel’s security and Israel’s economy,” Mr Lapid told his Cabinet.

He also said Israel would not oppose the development of “an additional Lebanese gas field” straddling the maritime border, as long as Israel receives “the share we deserve”.

This would weaken Lebanon’s dependence on Iran, restrain Hezbollah and promote regional stability, Mr Lapid.

He said the deal was being reviewed by legal and defence officials before it is to be voted upon by the government.

Israeli media said a vote could take place Thursday.

— With reporting from AFP.

Updated: October 02, 2022, 12:27 PM
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