Lebanon sends US its remarks on Israel maritime border dispute


Lebanon has sent Washington remarks over the proposal presented by U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein for resolving the long-running maritime border dispute with Israel.

A draft agreement floated by Hochstein aims to settle competing claims over offshore gas fields and was delivered to Lebanese and Israeli officials at the weekend, following years of indirect negotiations.

Lebanon's "response was presented to the American ambassador today," said Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab, who is tasked by President Michel Aoun to oversee the U.S.-mediated negotiations.

"I think that it is now in the hands of the U.S. mediator," he said during a television broadcast, adding that the response included "modifications" to the U.S. proposal.

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said Tuesday that the proposal was "on the right track to assert Lebanon's rights over all its waters."

Washington's offer has not been made public, but it has raised prospects for a deal that could help Lebanon explore potential gas wealth that the debt-ridden country desperately needs.

On Monday, Lebanon's top leaders met to discuss the offer, delivered via Washington's ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea.

Lebanon hopes to receive a response "before the end of the week," Bou Saab had said on Monday.

"We are not giving an official response but delivering an answer to the proposal with... remarks that we have," he had added.

Lebanon and Israel are officially at war and their land border is patrolled by the United Nations.

They reopened negotiations on their maritime border in 2020, but the process was stalled by Lebanon's demand that the map used by the U.N. in the talks be modified.

The negotiations resumed in early June after Israel moved a production vessel near the Karish offshore field.

The latest proposal by Washington was welcomed by both Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah, a major player in Lebanon that considers Israel its arch-enemy.

A Lebanese official involved in the negotiations had said the remarks include "amendments of specific sentences so that there is no room for misunderstanding."

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