Israel, Lebanon sign maritime border deal in rare diplomatic feat

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BAABDA/JERUSALEM – Israeli and Lebanese leaders signed a landmark agreement on their maritime boundary on Thursday, ending decades of hostility and paving the way for offshore energy exploration.

In Baada, Lebanese President Michel Aoun signed a letter approving the deal, which was followed by Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s signature in Jerusalem, with a handover ceremony of less-senior delegations set to take place at the UN peacekeeping base in Naqoura, which is located along the border.

Lapid called the agreement a “tremendous achievement,” and Lebanese negotiator Elias Bou Saab said it marked the start of a “new era” between the two sides, who are still technically at war.

The agreement eliminates one potential source of conflict between Israel and the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, and it may help alleviate Lebanon’s economic crisis.

Amos Hochstein, the US envoy who mediated the negotiations, told reporters after meeting Lebanon’s speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri, that he expects the agreement to hold even if both countries’ leaders change.

Hochstein referred to both the upcoming Israeli elections on Nov. 1 and the end of Aoun’s term on Oct. 31, saying the agreement should be maintained “regardless of who is elected very soon as Lebanon’s next president.”

While an offshore energy discovery would not be enough to solve Lebanon’s deep economic problems on its own, it would be a significant boon, providing desperately needed hard currency and possibly one day alleviating crippling blackouts.

While both Lebanon and Israel have expressed satisfaction with the peaceful resolution of a dispute, prospects for a wider diplomatic breakthrough appear dim.

“We’ve all heard of the Abraham Accords.” There is a new era beginning today. “It could be the Amos Hochstein agreement,” Saab said, referring to the 2020 US-brokered normalization of relations between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain.

“It is not every day that an enemy country recognizes the state of Israel in a written agreement in front of the international community,” Lapid said in broadcast remarks to his cabinet.

Aoun, on the other hand, has insisted that a deal will result in the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Source: Arab News

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