Israel, Lebanon sign maritime border deal in rare diplomatic feat

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BAABDA/JERUSALEM: Israeli and Lebanese leaders signed a historic US-brokered agreement on their maritime boundary on Thursday, marking a diplomatic exit from decades of hostility and opening the way for offshore energy exploration.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun signed a letter approving the deal in Baada, followed by Prime Minister Yair Lapid signing in Jerusalem, with a handover ceremony for lower-ranking delegations scheduled to take place at the Lebanese maintenance base. UN peace in Naqoura along the border.
Lapid hailed the deal as a “tremendous achievement” and Lebanese negotiator Elias Bou Saab said it marked the beginning of “a new era” between the two sides, which, however, remain technically at war.
The deal removes a source of potential conflict between Israel and the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group and could help ease Lebanon’s economic crisis.
After meeting with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Amos Hochstein, the US envoy who brokered the negotiation, told reporters he hopes the deal will stick even amid changes in leadership in both countries.
Hochstein referred to both the upcoming elections in Israel on November 1 and the end of Aoun’s term on October 31, saying the deal must stand “regardless of who is elected very soon as Lebanon’s next president.”
An offshore energy discovery, while not enough on its own to solve Lebanon’s deep economic problems, would go a long way, providing much-needed hard currency and possibly alleviating crippling blackouts one day.
While Lebanon and Israel have expressed satisfaction at having resolved a dispute peacefully, prospects for a broader diplomatic breakthrough appear remote.
“We have heard about the Abraham Accords. Today there is a new era. It could be the Amos Hochstein deal,” Saab said, referring to the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain brokered by the United States in 2020.
Lapid said: “It is not every day that an enemy country recognizes the State of Israel, in a written agreement, in full view of the international community,” Lapid told his cabinet in televised comments.
However, Aoun downplayed any broader progress, saying in a statement that the deal “has no political dimensions or impacts that contradict Lebanon’s foreign policy.”

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