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Lebanon and Israel reach 'historic' maritime border deal

The United States has been mediating for two years between the two neighbors, officially in a state of war, to reach this agreement.

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Lebanon and Israel reach 'historic' maritime border deal

The United States has been mediating for two years between the two neighbors, officially in a state of war, to reach this agreement.

The two countries had indicated in early October their satisfaction with a draft agreement by the American mediator Amos Hochstein. But last Thursday, Israel had affirmed its refusal to a series of Lebanese amendments to the draft agreement, which had dampened hopes.

In recent days, behind-the-scenes negotiations have continued, and Israel said on Tuesday it had received a favorable response to its concerns over the Lebanese amendment demands.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid announced in a statement on Tuesday a "historic" agreement on this file.

It "will strengthen Israel's security, inject billions (of euros) into the Israeli economy and ensure the stability of our northern border (with Lebanon)", he added, specifying that a meeting of his security cabinet was scheduled for Wednesday on this "agreement reached" after American mediation.

“All our requests have been granted,” said Eyal Hulata, national security adviser to the prime minister, earlier.

In Beirut, the Lebanese presidency indicated that the final version of the proposal was "satisfactory" for Lebanon. "It responds to Lebanon's demands and preserves its right to its natural resources", she added, hoping that the agreement would be "announced as soon as possible".

This announcement comes 20 days before the end of President Michel Aoun's mandate, which expires on October 31.

In Israel, legislative elections are to be held on November 1, the fifth in three and a half years, which could confirm the return to power of Benjamin Netanyahu with his allies from the ultra-Orthodox parties and the far right.

Last week, this former Prime Minister castigated this project, accusing Mr. Lapid of "giving" Lebanon a "sovereign territory of Israel", of "capitulating" to the Lebanese Hezbollah and threatening not to respect the agreement in case of return to business.

"Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese Parliament, is aware of the catastrophic economic situation in Lebanon and has an interest in Lebanon being able to exploit gas," Israel's Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev said on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Israeli officials said the deal would be presented to parliament, without providing a specific date.

- "Compensations" - 

According to press reports and officials, the text provides for the Karish offshore deposit to be under Israeli control and for the Cana reserves, located further northeast, to be granted to Lebanon.

But as part of this deposit exceeds the future line of demarcation, the Jewish state would receive a share of the future income from the gas exploitation of Cana, according to these sources.

In a context where the European Union is seeking to diversify its gas supplies due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Israel is counting on the Karish field, ready to go into production, to boost its gas deliveries to the Old continent.

But on Sunday, the company Energean, mandated to exploit this deposit, announced the start of tests to connect its offshore gas platform to Israeli territory, a key step for the start of production.

In July, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid discussed this issue with French President Emmanuel Macron, hoping to see Paris use its influence to facilitate an agreement with Beirut, especially since the French company Total is expected to explore the Cana deposit.

But unlike Karish, this field is still far from being able to be activated and must be the subject of more prospecting to determine the recoverable gas resources.

One of the main Lebanese negotiators in this case, Elias Bou Saab, assured Tuesday that there had been "an agreement between Total and the Israelis" under which the latter could "receive compensation" from the energy giant and not from the Lebanon.

In this context, the Middle East and North Africa director of the Exploration-Production branch of TotalEnergies, Laurent Vivier, arrived in Lebanon on Tuesday, according to the official Lebanese agency ANI.

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