Lebanon’s could reach an agreement on maritime border with Israel in September, the country’s Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib predicted during an interview on the local LBCI TV on July 3.
“I expect that we will reach an agreement on the demarcation of the maritime border with Israel in September … The information received from the United States and the United Nations shows progress in the negotiations,” L’Orient-Le Jour quoted Bou Habib as saying.
The Lebanese-Israeli maritime dispute heated up in June when the Greek-owned Energean Power FPSO [Floating Production Storage Offloading] reached the Karish field to extract gas. Lebanon claims that at least a part of Karish is within its exclusive economic zone.
US-backed talks on the demarcation of the naval borders between Lebanon and Israel saw some progress recently. Lebanon has reportedly agreed to drop claims on Karish likely in exchange for Israeli concessions on other parts of the disputed naval zone.
Earlier this week, the US government announced that Amos Hochstein, the American envoy in charge of indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel, had spoken with officials in Israel. Hochstein said his visit to Israel had allowed “a step forward with the aim of reducing the differences” of point of view between the two countries.
Despite the progress in talks, Hezbollah, who maintains that Karish belongs to Lebanon, launched on July 2 three unarmed drones on a reconnaissance mission near the gas filed. The drones were all shot down by the Israeli Defense Forces. Hezbollah said that the mission was a “message” to Israel.
Following the drone incident, Israel’s acting Prime Minister Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, claimed that Hezbollah is an obstacle to an agreement on maritime border with Lebanon.
Lebanon is clearly optimistic about a near US-sponsored agreement with Israel. However, Israel appears to be cautious as a result of Hezbollah’s strict stand on the dispute. Any further military escalation by either side could possibly turn the dispute into a military confrontation.