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International Boundaries Research Unit

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UN declares it is not responsible for maritime border delimitation between Israel and Lebanon

(11 January 2011)

On 5 January 2011, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) maintained that it would not be responsible for delimitation of the disputed maritime boundary between Israel and Lebanon. Lebanon had requested the UN’s involvement, after an increase in Israeli exploration activity in the eastern Mediterranean. Great interest has been shown in the newly discovered Leviathan field located in the north-west section of Israel’s claimed maritime area which could possess vast amounts of natural gas. Lebanon is concerned that the Leviathan field may extend into its claimed maritime area and that Israeli-licensed exploration may remove natural gas from across the undefined maritime boundary.

The UN is not required to monitor the line claimed unilaterally by Israel as the maritime boundary after its withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. However, UNIFIL is mandated to assist the Lebanese Navy offshore in stopping unauthorized arms from entering in to Lebanon, at the request of the Lebanese government.

Source: ‘Unifil says it cannot intervene over maritime border with Israel; U.N. refuses to act on Foreign Ministry request for action to stop Israel exploiting fossil fuels’, Patrick Galey, Daily Star, 6 January 2011; ‘Israel's natural gas discovery seen as endangering Lebanon's rights’, BBC Monitoring Middle East, December 31 2010; ‘UNIFIL mandate’, http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/unifil/mandate.shtml

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