Israeli PM welcomes US proposal on maritime border with Lebanon

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 Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday welcomed a U.S.-brokered proposal for demarcating a maritime border with Lebanon, saying it could increase profits for both countries from natural gas production.

   Lapid told his weekly cabinet meeting that Israel and Lebanon received the US Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein’s proposal for an agreement on a maritime line between the two countries over the weekend.

   The dispute concerns an area of some 860 square km of the Mediterranean Sea.

   He said the proposal is undergoing legal review, adding the approval of the deal would be decided in a cabinet vote and a first cabinet discussion was scheduled for Thursday.

   “The proposal safeguards Israel’s full security-diplomatic interests, as well as our economic interests,” the Israeli leader said.

   The US-proposed deal grants Lebanon the rights to the Qana natural gas field, located partially in the disputed area, with Israel receiving some of the revenues, according to media reports.

   “We do not oppose the development of an additional Lebanese gas field, from which we will receive the share we deserve,” Lapid said.

   “Such a field will weaken Lebanon’s dependence on Iran, restrain Hezbollah and promote regional stability,” he added.

   Israel has been trying to reach such a deal “for over a decade,” as an agreement between the two countries would “strengthen the security of the north,” Lapid concluded.

   However, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a right-wing leader running against centrist Lapid heading an interim government ahead of the Nov. 1 elections, accused Lapid of avoiding bringing the deal for a vote in the parliament.

   A day earlier, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said he had received Hochstein’s proposal on the maritime border demarcation with Israel and was studying how to provide Lebanon’s response “as soon as possible.”

   Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese Shiite party that had threatened to attack the rig of the disputed Karish gas field in the Mediterranean, described the proposal as “an important move.”

   Israel built a gas rig in the Karish field, which Israel claims is within its economic zone but Lebanon says in disputed waters. 

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