Lebanon Suggests Changes to Proposed Maritime Border Deal With Israel

The Lebanese have submitted the amendments to the American ambassador in Beirut, according to the Deputy Speaker of Parliament

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The Israeli-Lebanon maritime border, on Tuesday.
The Israeli-Lebanon maritime border, on Tuesday.Credit: JALAA MAREY - AFP

Lebanon has submitted to the United States a list of changes it would like to see to a proposal on how to delineate a contested maritime border with Israel, a top Lebanese official said on Tuesday.

Deputy speaker of Parliament Elias Bou Saab said he had earlier that day submitted to the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon the “amendments” Beirut would like to see.

Bou Saab said he does not think the proposed changes would derail the deal and that, while the response did not signify approval of the draft, talks were so advanced that "we are done negotiating."

Speaking to local broadcaster LBCI, he said the draft deal had been produced by thinking "outside of the box."

"We started to talk about it as a business deal," Bou Saab said.

The 10-page draft appears to float an arrangement whereby gas would be produced by a company under a Lebanese license in the disputed Kana prospect, with Israel receiving a share of revenues.

While that company has not been officially named, Lebanese officials have publicly suggested a role for TotalEnergies SE . A top Israeli official was meeting company representatives in Paris on Monday, according to a source briefed on the matter.

Bou Saab on Tuesday also said that, according to the draft deal, Lebanon had secured all of the maritime blocs it considered its own.

U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein has shuttled between Lebanon and Israel since 2020 to seal a deal that would pave the way for offshore energy exploration and defuse a potential source of conflict between Israel and Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Hochstein sent a draft proposal to Beirut last week. It was discussed on Monday by President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

On Tuesday, Lebanon's Al-Akhbar newspaper reported that the local government said it will not agree to establish any security zone within its maritime border nor give up any territory at sea, in reference to a section in the U.S. proposal regarding the regulation of the maritime border.

The American proposal is based on Line 23, which is located north of the maximal version that the Lebanese put forward some years ago. The Karish gas field is located southwest of the line, meaning that it will remain under complete Israeli control. The northeastern field, Kana, will go to the Lebanese. Israel might receive compensation in return for Lebanon’s use of a small part of the gas field in its territory.

An Israeli government official said in response to the Lebanese report that Prime Minister Yair Lapid "will not agree to compromise the security and economic interests of the State of Israel. We are waiting to receive the comments officially from competent authorities in order for us to know if and how to move forward."

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened on numerous occasions this summer to target Israeli drilling operations, on the grounds that Israel was infringing on Lebanon’s maritime rights. In July the IDF downed four Hezbollah drones in the area of the offshore field, on two separate occasions. They are thought to have carried cameras, not explosives, but their launch was interpreted as a threat against Israel.

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