Lebanon, Israel officially approve maritime border deal

Lebanon, Israel officially approve maritime border deal
Lebanon and Israel have officially signed a deal to delineate their maritime borders
2 min read
The agreement opens the way for offshore energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean basin [Getty/archive]

Israel's government approved a landmark U.S.-brokered maritime border deal with Lebanon on Thursday, a statement from Prime Minister Yair Lapid's office said.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun earlier signed a letter approving the deal, which will be formally sealed later on Thursday.

The deal is believed to mark a diplomatic departure from decades of hostility.

The agreement opens the way for offshore energy exploration and removes one source of potential conflict between Israel and Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and could help alleviate Lebanon's economic crisis.

Speaking from the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, negotiator Elias Bou Saab said the agreement marked the beginning of "a new era" and that the letter would be submitted to U.S. officials at Lebanon's southernmost border point of Naqoura later on Thursday.

It has been hailed by all three parties as a "historic achievement".

Asked what happens in case of a violation by either of the sides, which remain technically at war, U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein said the U.S. would remain a guarantor to help resolve any disputes.

"If one side violates the deal, both sides lose," Hochstein told reporters.

He also met with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. He said he expected the deal to hold regardless of who wins the elections in Israel next week.

An offshore energy discovery - while not enough on its own to resolve Lebanon's deep economic problems - would be a major boon, providing badly needed hard currency and possibly one day easing crippling blackouts.