Lebanon and Israel have received a final draft of a maritime boundary agreement mediated by the United States that meets all of their standards and may lead to a “historic accord” soon, negotiators from the two nations said on Tuesday.
“If all goes well, Amos Hochstein’s efforts might lead to a historic resolution very soon,” Lebanon’s senior negotiator Bou Saab told Reuters minutes after getting the draft from Hochstein, the US diplomat who has been engaged in months of shuttle diplomacy to attempt to resolve the conflict.
Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata who headed the Israeli negotiating team echoed Saab’s remarks:
“All our demands were met, the changes that we asked for were corrected. We protected Israel’s security interests and are on our way to an historic agreement,” he said in a statement.
While limited in scope, an agreement would ease security and economic concerns in both countries, whose shared history is rife with conflict.
The deal would resolve a territorial dispute in the eastern tip of the Mediterranean sea in an area where Lebanon aims to explore for natural gas, and near waters where Israel has already found commercially viable quantities of hydrocarbons.
Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and militia backed by Iran, has threatened to use force against Israel should Israel explore for gas near the disputed area before Lebanon is allowed to do so in its own maritime zone.
“We received minutes ago the final draft… Lebanon felt that it takes into consideration all of Lebanon’s requirements and we believe that the other side should feel the same,” Bou Saab said.
Israel last week rejected last-minute amendments to the deal by Lebanon that briefly appeared to jeopardize long-standing efforts to reach an agreement.
Over the last few days, officials from both nations have been in regular touch with the US mediator in an attempt to resolve unresolved disputes.
Lebanon’s president stated that a pact would not imply a “relationship” with Israel, which Lebanon does not recognize and considers to be an enemy.
“We are averting a sure-fire war in the area,” Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s temporary Prime Minister, stated last week.
According to Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, no signing date has been announced. Israel holds elections on November 1st, and it is unclear if the agreement will need to be approved by parliament.