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Durham University

IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

Israel unilaterally defines the northern limit of its maritime space

(14 July 2011)

On 12 July 2011, Israel deposited a unilateral claim to the northern limit of its maritime space with the United Nations. The unilateral claim line defines what would be the maritime boundary with neighbouring Lebanon, extending from the terminus of the Line of Withdrawal (Blue Line), seaward to the eastern endpoint of Israel's maritime boundary with Cyprus agreed in December 2010. Although the declaration does not specify the methodology for constructing the line, the six defined turning points define a line that largely follows the northern limit of an existing 'security zone' claimed by Israel close off-shore, before following the northern limit of Israel's oil and gas license blocks extending out to the tripoint with Cyprus. Lebanon has firmly objected to Israel's declaration.

Israel has been eager to define its maritime space after the recent discovery of several large gas fields off-shore. The US exploration company Noble Energy holds license blocks on both sides of the Cyprus-Israel maritime boundary which cover the highly lucrative Leviathan gas field. However, Lebanon is concerned that part of this gas field may extend into its own maritime space. Reports indicate that Lebanon has recently defined its maritime boundary with Cyprus, but it has not agreed a boundary with Israel.

Israel is not a party to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and has not formally claimed a Territorial Sea or Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), both areas of maritime jurisdiction defined in UNCLOS. However, the recent announcement states explicitly that the claimed northern line defines the extent of Israel's Territorial Sea and EEZ which may suggest that it has implicitly accepted the regulatory arragements in UNCLOS for these zones as part of customary international law.

Source: 'Lebanese President warns Israel over maritime border' BBC Monitoring Middle East, 14 July 2011; 'List of Geographic Coordinates for the Delimitation of the Northern Limit of the Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone of the State of Israel in WGS84' Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations, 12 July 2011.