Neighbors and enemies, Lebanon and Israel sign a “historic agreement” on borders

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Lebanon and Israel signed on Tuesday a “historic agreement”which has the potential to alleviate economic and security problems in both countries.

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the neighbors, who they collided cruel wars, approved a final draft agreement on maritime borders, mediated by the United Stateswhich will resolve a territorial dispute at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.

Although limited in scope, the deal has the potential to alleviate economic and security concerns in both countries, whose shared history It is full of conflicts. But it will also pave the way for greater gas exploration in the region in times of energy scarcity.

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The agreement has the potential to allow further production of natural gas in the Mediterranean, at a time when European economies are anxiously looking for new suppliers.

get out of the crisis

Lebanon hopes to emerge from its spiral of economic crisis if gas can be found in the Mediterranean. your current The situation is catastrophic and cholera is also threatening to land in the country, plagued by refugees, without funds to deal with its financial crisis and without a stable government.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the deal a “historic achievement, which will strengthen Israel’s security, inject billions into the Israeli economy and ensure the stability of our northern border.”

Although limited in scope, the deal has the potential to pave the way new talks between countries, whose shared history is full of conflicts.

The agreement aims to be resolved a territorial dispute in an area where Lebanon wants to explore natural gas and near the waters where Israel has already found commercially viable quantities of hydrocarbons.

Hezbollah approves

Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite political party and an Iranian-backed military militia listed in the Lebanese constitution, had threatened to use force against Israel if he had explored for gas near the disputed area before Lebanon was allowed to do so in its own sea zone.

Hezbollah led the country’s ruling coalition until the May 2022 elections. Since then Lebanon did not have a government In full operation. But officials said the party approves the deal after it is signed.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said a deal wouldn’t mean a “partnership” with Israela country which it does not recognize and which it officially considers an enemy.

“We are avoiding some war in the region,” Lebanese interim prime minister Najib Mikati said last week.

It is understood that the agreement it must be ratified by both countries before it is confirmed.

Approve before the Israeli elections

Israel will hold elections on November 1 and it is not yet clear whether the deal will require parliamentary approval. A country official said after signing that he hopes “the deal will be approved in three weeks“.

Lebanese interim energy minister Walid Fayyad said the French gas company TotalEnergies will start the process of gas exploration in Lebanese waters “as soon as the agreement is signed”.

The deal comes at a time when gas prices have risen and when European economies looked for new gas suppliers after Russia cut off supplies following the invasion of Ukraine.

In a Lebanon in crisis, with the threat of cholera, the promise of the next exploitation of hydrocarbons would be an indisputable sign of hope, even of recovery.

But what does the signing of an agreement on the delimitation of its southern maritime border really mean? When will Lebanon begin to exploit its hydrocarbons if the Cana field turns out to be rich in gas?

Biden’s pressure

On the negotiating level, it will not be the details that will prevail, nor the Israeli-Lebanese one, but the negotiating dynamics of the US administration, which has exerted greater pressure on Lebanon and Israel for the agreement to be successful.

President Joe Biden wants an agreement at all costs before the Israeli legislative elections, scheduled for November 1, 2022.

The Democratic president even contacted Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid to inform him of his determination. Why a victory for former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be an obstacle to an agreement, because it is not in tune with the Democrats. This expected relaxation could also coincide with the advancement of Iranian nuclear practice.

The Lebanese authorities have made progress on a formal agreement on the delimitation of the maritime border between Lebanon and Israel. Even if it will not be signed face to face, the declaration that will be signed by both parties is tantamount to an agreement between two states. It will be registered with the United Nations.

However, only one point will remain ambiguous, the area of ​​5 kilometers (2.5 to 4 km2) claimed by Israel, which starts from the coast at point 31 (starting point of line 1 claimed by Israel) and converges towards the line 23.5 km long. Because Israel insists on the “buoy line” for security reasons.

Their priority is to protect the tourist centers of Rosh Hanikra (Israeli part of Ras Naqoura). However, this area is also claimed by Lebanon, as part of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), with point B1 as the starting point. A point located in Ras Naqoura, which it claims as the starting point of its southern land boundary line.

The opinion of a specialist

Charbel Skaff is a university professor, oil and gas expert, doctor of international relations in Lebanon. He said in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper “L’l Orient, Le Jour” that Lebanon will receive all the resources and revenues from the alleged Cana hydrocarbon field.

“This decision must be mentioned in the agreement. Knowing that this field is crossed by line 23, the Land of the Cedars will still exercise its sovereignty over the northern part of this field “She said.

“Israel for its part will exercise its sovereignty on the southern part of the field. And since Lebanon does not want to negotiate with Israel, the question of the remuneration of the Jewish state will be addressed between the latter and the company TotalEnergies, responsible for the management of Block 9 (in the context of a consortium formed by the Italian Emi and the Russian Novatek whose shares were recovered from Lebanon). It will be deducted from the income of the French company “, the French specialist assured the Lebanese newspaper.

For him, “the delimitation of the southern maritime border will bring stability to the southern border of Lebanon. The region will no longer be used as a pretext for regional military attempts. Instead, it will be a place of potential benefit for Lebanon, in the event of a discovery of hydrocarbons on a commercial scale ”.

The agreement should also promote “the Internal Lebanese political stability. Strongly encouraged by the American sponsor, but also by France and Europe, this agreement could have a positive impact on the progress of the internal political commitment, in a context of end of mandate and fear of a presidential vacuum ”, he assured.

Paris, correspondent


Source: Clarin

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