Lebanon gets US ‘offer’ on maritime border with Israel

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Lebanon said Saturday it received a letter from US envoy Amos Hochstein containing an “offer” on a maritime border deal with Israel that could settle competing claims over offshore gas fields.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati met with US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea “who delivered a written offer from the US mediator,” the premier's office said, without elaborating.

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President Michel Aoun also met with Shea “who handed him a written letter... containing proposals regarding the demarcation of the southern maritime border,” Aoun's office said.

Aoun contacted Mikati and parliament speaker Nabih Berri to discuss ways to follow up on the “offer” and deliver Lebanon’s response “as quickly as possible,” the presidency added.

Lebanon and Israel, whose border is UN-patrolled, have no diplomatic relations.

They had resumed maritime border negotiations in 2020, but the process was stalled by Beirut's claim that the map used by the United Nations in the talks needed modifying.

The US-mediated negotiations restarted in early June after Israel moved a production vessel near the Karish offshore field, which is partly claimed by Lebanon.

Saturday’s announcement followed a flurry of statements by Lebanese officials, including Aoun and Mikati, expressing optimism that a deal with Israel was near.

“The Lebanese response will be made as soon as possible, in preparation for the next step,” an official at the president’s office told AFP on Saturday on the condition of anonymity.

Last month, Aoun told the UN’s special coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, that “negotiations to demarcate the southern maritime borders are in their final stages.”

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