Lebanon Offers To Push Back On Maritime Border Claims With Israel – The Organization for World Peace

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The Lebanese government is close to making a compromise with Israel over the development of the Karish gas field in disputed territory. US Energy Representative and mediator Amos Hochstein met with officials in Beirut on Monday to discuss a proposed new borders. A vessel operated by Energean, an English company, was on its way to the gas field when the Lebanese government objected to its arrival, contesting that it should not be developed until talks over the maritime borders had ended. Israel says Karish is within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is defined by the United Nations as a border extending 230 miles beyond a country’s land borders. The dispute over the English ship came to a halt last year after Lebanon pushed back its maritime borders an additional 1,400 sq km than originally agreed, which included Karish. Now President Michel Aoun is dropping the ‘Line 29’ claim and backing down to exclude Karish, but still demands that Israel halt construction until the talks are over. Lebanon would still receive Cana, another potentially viable area for gas.

President Aoun’s withdrawal of Line 29 came after several members of the Lebanese parliament, including Mark Daou, were told by the president that he could not “insist on Line 29” in the negotiations. In an interview with Reuters, MP Daou remarked that the president did not “have the technical basis on which to build a case for line 29 because previous governments had not produced formal documentation to maintain this position.

The agreement and its speedy conclusion were described as crucial for future peace negotiations between Israel and Lebanon. “Lebanon, more than Israel today, needs this deal,” Lebanese oil and gas expert Laury Haytayan said, according to CNN. The agreement would ensure Israel’s security without the “constant danger of potential escalation.”

Lebanon’s withdrawal from Line 29 is a good sign for the ongoing peaceful negotiations regarding two major players in the border disputes in the Middle East; however, the issue itself calls into question the effectiveness of border solutions in general terms. The United Nations has created a charter regarding water claims in the countries’ EEZs, but this example contradicts that agreement. It is a sign that countries need to review these “universal agreements” which still require negotiations. Regarding the disputes in the region, Lebanon and Israel avoiding violent approaches to this situation is hopefully a move in a peaceful direction. Time will tell if other nations also in conflict with Israel can reach similar conclusions.

The Karish gas field is not an ignorable area for oil gathering in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located in the Levantine Basin, which could would have hold nearly 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of gas. The area has not recently become contested; for years, Lebanon and Israel have both claimed around 860 square kilometers of the sea that separates the two countries. However, they are moving in very different directions when it comes to the economic power of oil and gas internationally. Israel, with the help of its allies, the United States and the United Kingdom, becomes a supplier of natural gas, in particular in place of Russia. Lebanon is seeking revenue from new oil and gas resources and could use full ownership of parts of the basin. The dispute is partly due to Lebanon’s struggle with natural resources and maintaining revenue in the economy, in constant battles with local militarized groups and competing countries. More information on the economic crisis in Lebanon and past events related to the situation can be found on the OWP website crisis index.

The movement towards a compromise between Lebanon and Israel can hopefully avoid violent conflict while benefiting both countries economically. The Karish gas field and maritime disputes like this should be held up as examples of peaceful negotiation, but also show the need for a more concrete definition of what countries can claim outside their land borders.

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