Lebanon to study final draft of maritime deal with Israel

The Israeli authorities rejected a number of Lebanese amendments to the US proposal last week

London-based Energean begins drilling at the Karish gasfield off the Israeli coast. Israel insists that Karish is not part of the talks with Lebanon and that production will begin regardless of any deal. Reuters
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Senior Lebanese officials are studying the final draft of a US-mediated agreement that would demarcate Lebanon’s maritime boundary with Israel and pave the way for gasfield exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said he was due to receive the final version from US energy envoy Amos Hochstein on Sunday evening and would study it “carefully” before taking an “appropriate decision”.

Israel and Lebanon are technically in a state of war and have no diplomatic relations.

Last week, Lebanon submitted a handful of modifications to a draft US proposal to end the long-standing dispute.

But these suggested changes were rejected by Israel, with Israeli officials saying the proposed modifications were “significant”. Lebanon insisted that the amendments were not significant enough to derail the deal.

It came as London-based energy company Energean on Sunday began testing pipes between Israel and the Karish offshore gasfield, which has been claimed in its entirety by Tel Aviv and in part by Beirut.

The tests are expected to take a number of weeks and are “an important step” towards extracting gas from Karish, Energean said.

Iran-backed Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese armed group and political party that has often fought with Israel, previously threatened to attack if extraction began before a deal was reached.

Israel insists that Karish is not part of the maritime border negotiations and that production will begin regardless of any deal.

Under the terms of the agreement, all of Karish would fall under Israeli control, while Qana, another potential gasfield, would be under Lebanon's control.

French company Total would be licensed to search for gas in the Qana field, and Israel would receive a share of future revenue.

Lebanese officials have insisted that such an arrangement would not constitute a working relationship with Israel.

Updated: October 10, 2022, 9:39 AM