'Lebanon will become a petro-state': Lebanon's president approves maritime deal with Israel
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun approved on Tuesday the final agreement of the deal that will settle maritime borders with Israel, potentially solving a decade-long conflict between the two countries.
The Information Office of the Presidency said that "the final version of the offer satisfies Lebanon, meets its demands and preserves its rights to natural wealth."
The deal will clear the way for gas exploration in what experts say are offshore reserves potentially containing billions in natural gas.
As Aoun reviewed the terms of the deal, executives from French energy conglomerate TotalEnergies arrived in Beirut, according to state media.
TotalEnergies will begin exploring for gas offshore Lebanon after the maritime deal is signed, Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad said on Tuesday.
"Lebanon will become a petro-state," Fayyad added.
Both Israel and Lebanon were satisfied by the terms of the agreement, with Israeli officials saying they "protected Israel's security interests" and were ready for a "historic agreement."
The previous months saw a flurry of back-and-forth shuttle diplomacy between the two countries, facilitated by US Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein.
Negotiations were accompanied by military pressure from the Iran-backed militia Hezbollah, which threatened action if Israel started drilling in the disputed zone. For its part, Israel said it could "dismantle Lebanon" if Hezbollah acted against it.
Lebanon in particular needs a deal, both to help get it out of its three-year-long economic crisis and to solve its domestic energy shortage. Presently, Lebanon can only provide up to hours of state power a day.
Israel has already signed a contract with Greek energy conglomerate, Energean, which has promised its first gas from Karish in the fall of 2022.
Experts have warned that Lebanon will not see a profit from offshore gas for at least eight years, however, due in part to the high-up front cost of exploration and extraction.