Lebanon suggests amendments to maritime border deal with Israel

Lebanon has submitted a list of changes it would like to see to the United States in a proposal on how to delineate a contested maritime border with Israel.

  London-based Energean’s drill ship begins drilling at the Karish natural gas field offshore Israel in the east Mediterranean May 9, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS)
London-based Energean’s drill ship begins drilling at the Karish natural gas field offshore Israel in the east Mediterranean May 9, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

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

The discussion with Lebanon

US 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.

Deputy speaker of parliament Elias Bou Saab said he had earlier that day submitted to the US ambassador in Lebanon the amendments Beirut would like to see, without providing details.

The proposed Israel-Lebanon maritime border. (credit: Courtesy)The proposed Israel-Lebanon maritime border. (credit: Courtesy)

He 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 Qana prospect, with Israel receiving a share of revenues.

While that company has been officially named, Lebanese officials have publicly suggested a role for TotalEnergies SE TTEF.PA. A top Israeli official met company representatives in Paris on Monday, according to a source briefed on the matter.

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

He added that Lebanon would not pay one cent from its share of Qana to Israel.