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Labib Mansour 06 Oct 2022

Quick And Simple Recap Of Lebanon’s Maritime Border Issue

If you are someone who is largely disinterested in the ins and outs of regional and Lebanese politics but find yourself wanting to hear the facts without any opinions or agendas, we’ve written up this short explainer.

Lebanon and Israel have been in a state of war since 1948, exchanging periods of conflict and ceasefire. This has meant that no official borders were ever demarcated between the two entities. The current border lines, established after the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000, are unofficial.

Since the discovery of oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the absence of border agreements has proved to be an obstacle to operations, with companies such as Total stating they cannot begin work in the disputed gas fields until agreements are reached.

Indirect negotiations over the border, mediated by U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein, started in 2020. The major disagreement between the two sides was, obviously, where the border should be placed. Lebanese officials wanted the line placed as far south as Line 29, while the Israeli side claimed the border went as far north as Line 1.

Between those two lines are two important gas fields: Qana and Karish. At Line 1, a quarter of Qana and none of Karish would have been part of Lebanon’s territorial waters. At Line 29, all of Qana and almost half of Karish would have been part of Lebanon’s territorial waters. While at Line 23, it would be almost 3 quarters of Qana and none of Karish.

Israel has already started extraction operations in the Karish field.

The eventual agreement reached set the border at Line 23, with Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone also going over the entire Qana gas field past that line. Israel will retain full rights to the Karish field.

The agreement has been received positively by both sides, and should be formalized in the coming weeks or months. After the agreement is ratified, it is hoped that the process to develop and potentially begin extraction in the Qana gas field can finally begin.