Lebanese MPs call for maritime deal with Israel to be shared with parliament

Speaker Nabih Berri requests that a copy of the agreement be circulated among MPs

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The speaker of the Lebanese parliament has called for MPs to receive a copy of a draft maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon, amid criticism in Beirut that the terms have had insufficient parliamentary oversight.

MPs say they have not officially been told of the terms of the agreement, although drafts have been leaked to Israeli media.

At a parliamentary session on Thursday, a handful of MPs urged speaker Nabih Berri to convene a session where MPs could discuss the US-mediated demarcation plan.

The MPs argue that as an international treaty, the deal should be voted on in parliament. One of them, MP Melhem Khalaf, said a failure to send the agreement to parliament would be “a constitutional violation”.

Not long after the session ended due to a lack of quorum, Mr Berri requested that a copy of the deal be shared “with the members of parliament for observation after the Council of Ministers’ approval.”

While Lebanon has yet to officially accept the deal, both Tel Aviv and Beirut have said they are satisfied with it. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said the agreement meets Lebanon’s demands.

But it remains unclear why Lebanon has not formally announced its acceptance despite its positive messaging.

A deal paves the way for both countries, which technically remain in a state of war, to conduct gas exploration in the Mediterranean while easing a potential source of tension.

It will not resolve a dispute over the land border, with a highly controversial line of buoys extending from that contested point remaining as the status quo for now.

Under the terms of the agreement, it appears a prospective gasfield called Qana would be under Lebanon's control.

It is expected that French company Total will be licensed to search for gas and Israel would receive a share of future profits.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said that under the agreed terms, Israel “will receive approximately 17 per cent of the revenue from the Lebanese gasfield, the Qana-Sidon field, if and when they will open it.”

Lebanon is in desperate need of any economic lifelines, amid one of the worst economic collapses in modern history that has plunged much of the country into poverty.

Updated: October 13, 2022, 3:39 PM
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