Lebanon to send unified comments on draft maritime deal to US official by Tuesday

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Lebanon will send its comments on a US proposal to delineate its maritime border with longtime foe Israel to the American official mediating talks by Tuesday, a top Lebanese official said on Monday.

Deputy parliament speaker Elias Bou Saab said the Lebanese government would not respond to the proposal officially until US envoy Amos Hochstein responded to its concerns, which it expected him to do by the end of the week.

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“The devils are in the details, but the devils are now small,” Bou Saab said.

“Lebanon will set its position on Hochstein’s proposal in consultation with the heads of parliament and government. There will be no partnership with the Israeli side,” President Michel Aoun said had said earlier in the day.

Hoping to defuse one source of conflict between the hostile countries and prod them toward accommodation, Hochstein last week submitted a new proposal to Lebanon that would pave the way for offshore energy exploration.

The details of the 10-page draft have been kept under wraps but Lebanese officials have been optimistic. Even Iran-backed Hezbollah deemed the proposal’s submission “a very important step” on Saturday while its ally speaker Nabih Berri described it as “positive.”

The latest draft appears to float an arrangement whereby gas would be produced by a company under a Lebanese license in the disputed Qana prospect, with Israel receiving a share of revenues.

While no company has been officially named, Lebanese officials have publicly suggested a role for TotalEnergies SE and a top Israeli official was meeting company representatives in Paris on Monday, according to a source briefed on the matter.

Israel’s energy ministry confirmed that its director-general Lior Schillat, who also heads Israel’s negotiating team, was in Paris for discussions on Monday.

TotalEnergies declined to comment.

Israel has said its own legal experts are also reviewing the draft before it can be approved.

Israeli media reported that the cabinet will meet on Thursday to approve the deal, but no session is formally scheduled.

A senior Israeli official told Reuters that it was not yet clear when the government would take that step, as it awaited word of Lebanon’s response.

“If they come back with changes - other than small, technical things - it may not be done by Thursday,” the official said.

Read more:

Israel upbeat on draft Lebanese maritime demarcation deal, sees gas profit-sharing

Lebanon’s Nabih Berri sees draft maritime deal as ‘positive’: Report

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