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Israel Lebanon Maritime Aljazeera Map showing disputed area

Lebanon and Israel have agreed a deal over a maritime border dispute involving offshore gas fields after years of US-mediated talks.

The agreement to demarcate the maritime border comes after months of talks mediated by senior US official Amos Hochstein and marks a major breakthrough in relations between the two countries, which have formally been at war since Israel's creation in 1948.

Lebanon and Israel both claim around 860 square kilometres (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea that are home to offshore gas fields.

The agreement stipulates that the disputed waters would be divided along a line straddling the Qana natural gas field. Gas production would be based on the Lebanese side, but Israel would be compensated for gas extracted from its side of the line. The agreement also benefits Israel in that it would gain uncontested access to the Karish gas field, which straddles the line between the disputed area and Israeli waters.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said that his country has approved the maritime border deal, saying the talks had come to a “positive end”, however he insisted it did not pave the way for the normalisation of relations with Israel.

Israel's Cabinet voted in favour of the U.S.-brokered deal by a "large majority" of its ministers on 12 October. The agreement will be forwarded to the Knesset, or parliament, for a two-week review period before a final Cabinet vote.

The text of the agreement sent to both countries by US mediator Amos Hochstein said it "establishes a permanent and equitable resolution of their maritime dispute".

The agreement will go into force as soon as the US sends a notice confirming it has received from Lebanon and Israel their separate approvals. Both countries will then record maritime border coordinates with the United Nations in a move that will override 2011 submissions by both countries.

Lebanon hopes that demarcating maritime borders will pave the way for gas exploration to help lift it out of its crippling economic crisis, Israel meanwhile also hopes to exploit gas reserves and hopes the deal will reduce the risk of war with Lebanon's Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah.


Image Source:  AlJazeera