Lebanese Speaker: Clear Progress Made in Demarcating Southern Maritime Border
Lebanese parliament Speaker Nabih Berri spoke on Wednesday of clear progress in the issue of demarcating the southern maritime border with Israel.
He had held talks on the issue with visiting acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield. The official is in charge of negotiations on this file with Lebanon and Israel.
Lawmakers quoted Berri as saying that talks with the American official were positive.
He voiced optimism that this issue would be resolved, adding that Lebanese unity played a key role in the positive developments in the file.
He added that Lebanon may receive next week a response to its proposals about the demarcation.
President Michel Aoun had presented the US ambassador to Lebanon with a “unified stance” regarding the demarcation of the border.
Last month, Berri told commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Stefano del Col, that Beirut is ready to establish the maritime border and special economic zone with Israel similar to the one used to demarcate the land border between the two countries after Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.
There are some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of waters claimed by the two countries, which are technically in a state of conflict. Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006.
In December 2017, the Lebanese government approved licenses for three international companies to carry out exploratory drilling off the Lebanese coast. The licenses will allow Italy’s Eni, France’s Total and Russia’s Novatek, who bid for two of Lebanon’s 10 offshore blocks, to determine whether oil and gas exist.
Last month, Lebanon’s Energy Minister Nada Boustani announced a second round of bidding for licenses to search offshore for oil. Boustani said the deadline for companies to submit their offers for three new blocks is Jan. 31, 2020.
Lebanon is expected to begin drilling for oil and gas later this year in block 4 that is off the coast north of Beirut and in block 9 along the maritime border with Israel in January 2020.