Lebanon more than doubles the sea areas claimed on disputed maritime border with Israel

Lebanon’s caretaker public works minister said he had signed an amendment of maritime boundary lines with Israel

A handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra on on January 22, 2020 shows Lebanon's new Minister of Public Works Michel Najjar posing for an official picture at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut. (Photo by - / DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP) / === RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / DALATI AND NOHRA" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ===
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Lebanon took an initial step towards claiming an additional 1,430-square-kilometre area in the sea bordering Israel and overlaps with its Karish natural gas field.

Caretaker Public Works Minister Michel Najjar said on Monday that he has signed an amendment to Lebanon’s provisional marine boundaries with Israel to expand the area claimed from 860 sq kilometres, based on a map that Lebanon sent to the UN in 2011, to 2,290 sq kilometres.

An Israeli navy corvette is pictured from the southern Lebanese border town of Naqura as it patrols the waters on October 28, 2020 during talks between Lebanese and Israeli delegations on the demarcation of the maritime frontier between the two countries. - Lebanon and Israel, still technically at war and with no diplomatic ties, launched a second round of maritime border talks Wednesday under UN and US auspices to allow for offshore energy exploration. (Photo by Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
An Israeli navy corvette pictured from the southern Lebanese border town of Naqura as it patrols the disputed maritime border. AFP, file

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and President Michel Aoun have to add their signatures to the amendment before it is shared with the UN.

The new Lebanese provisional map of its marine border is expected to complicate negotiations with Israel over disputed maritime areas.

UN-sponsored indirect negotiations, mediated by the US, came to a halt late last year after the Lebanese delegation claimed an additional area on top of the already disputed.

The amendment of Lebanon’s southern maritime border had been delayed owing to disagreements over technicalities between members of Mr Diab’s caretaker Cabinet, as well as political tension between the country’s top officials.

Lebanese officials are expected to touch on the disputed borders with Israel when they meet US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, who will be visiting Beirut later this week.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe will meet on Tuesday with Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon to discuss preparations for negotiations over the demarcation of the country’s northern maritime borders.

Mr Wehbe told The National earlier this month that his ministry was reviewing an agreement under which Damascus recently awarded a Russian company the right to offshore oil and gas exploration in areas that overlap with what Lebanon sees as its exclusive economic zone.

The contract ratified by Damascus last month awards Russian company, Kapital, the right to explore oil and gas in two Syrian-demarcated blocks that overlap with what Lebanon has said are its northern maritime blocks by an estimated area of 750 square kilometres.

Syria has not recognised the Lebanese 2011 demarcation.