Officials optimistic that deal is near in Lebanon-Israel maritime dispute
U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein on Saturday sent Israel and Lebanon a draft agreement on the maritime border dispute, with Israeli, Lebanese and Western officials voicing optimism about the chances of inking a deal in the next few days, according to a Western diplomat with direct knowledge of the negotiations.
Why it matters: Hochstein has been mediating between Israel and Lebanon for a year. Several U.S. mediators have tried to get a deal on the maritime border for more than a decade.
- The dispute is over a potentially gas-rich, 330-square-mile disputed area of the Mediterranean Sea with an estimated value reaching billions of dollars.
- The U.S., Lebanon and Israel have expressed a sense of urgency to get a deal as soon as possible amid Hezbollah's threats to go to war if Beirut's economic rights are not respected.
Driving the news: U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea on Saturday presented Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Najib Mikati with a draft agreement.
- Later on Saturday Aoun, Mikati and the speaker of parliament held consultations on the draft agreement, according to a statement from the Lebanese presidency. A team of Lebanese experts started to review the draft.
- The Western official said the draft agreement was sent to Israel as well. On Wednesday, Hochstein met in Washington with Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata.
Between the lines: In a speech Saturday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave a more moderate message on the dispute than the threats he's voiced in the past. He stressed that the “Lebanese state” will make the decision on any deal.
- The Western diplomat said Nasrallah’s televised comments were positive. “There is still work to do and many things can go wrong but this is as advanced as it could have been at this point," the diplomat said.
- Elias Bou Saab, the deputy speaker of the Lebanese parliament, said on Friday that he hopes a deal could be reached within days.
What to watch: Israeli officials told Axios the security cabinet will convene later this week to possibly vote on the agreement.