Israel-Lebanon maritime deal close to done: Saudi media

The deal would leave the Karish gas field under Israeli control, while Lebanon would be able to develop the Qana gas field, according to anonymous sources.

By The Algemeiner

A maritime boundary agreement between Israel and Lebanon is nearing completion, the Saudi Arabian news channel Al-Arabiya reported Sunday.

The deal would leave the Karish gas field under Israeli control, while Lebanon would be able to develop the Qana gas field, according to anonymous sources cited by the Saudi outlet.

The London-based exploration and production company Energin, which already operates in Karish, will do the same in Qana, and will pay Israel compensation due to Jerusalem’s claim of partial ownership over the latter field, the report added.

The news came as Lebanon’s presidential palace announced on Sunday that American diplomat Amos Hochstein, who has been mediating talks on the maritime issue between Jerusalem and Beirut, will arrive in Lebanon this week.

In comments run by Russian media last month, an unnamed Lebanese official said his government was close to reaching an agreement on the border dispute with Israel.

The maritime issue is rooted in competing claims of ownership over offshore energy resources in the Levant Basin, and has been a long-running point of contention between Israel and Lebanon, which do not have diplomatic relations. It has also led to increased tension in recent months with Hezbollah, the US-designated terrorist group based in Lebanon which receives the bulk of its funding and weapons from Iran

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Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, has repeatedly threatened Israel against beginning commercial production in September in Karish without reaching a resolution with Lebanon, which has claimed the field is in disputed territory. Israel has consistently maintained that Karish is firmly within its exclusive economic zone.

“All fields are under threat, not only Karish […] no Israeli target at sea or on land is out of the reach of the resistance’s precision missiles,” Nasrallah said in July.

His comments came shortly after the Israeli military downed a drone sent from Lebanon into its territory, and intercepted other drones launched by Hezbollah towards the offshore Karish gas field in the Mediterranean.

Later in July, Hezbollah broadcasted a clip showing vessels at the Karish gas field off the Israeli coast overlaid with crosshairs and coordinates, as well as a glimpse of a missile identified as an Iranian-produced long-range anti-ship cruise missile

Nasrallah has said that the group is “escalating our rhetoric so that the Americans and Israelis submit, because the course of the collapse in Lebanon is continuing.” The country faces a dire economic plight amid high national debt, political stagnation, corruption, sectarianism, and a rollback in foreign aid.

Israeli security sources have previously told local media that threats by the Hezbollah chief indicate his understanding that a resolution to the maritime issue is imminent, and are meant to allow Hezbollah to claim that a good deal was secured due to its threats.

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