Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, on Wednesday cited “major progress” in US mediation efforts on a maritime border dispute with Israel, Anadolu News Agency reports.
“The completion of the southern sea border demarcation file will enable Lebanon to launch the process of exploring for oil and gas in the specified fields within the Exclusive Economic Zone,” Aoun said in a statement.
“This will give the Lebanese economy a positive impetus to begin exiting the crisis it has been reeling under for years,” he added.
The Lebanese leader said contacts to finalise the demarcation file “have made major progress, in which Lebanon has achieved what enables it to exploit its resources in its waters.”
“There are technical details that are currently being studied in order to realise Lebanon’s interest, rights and sovereignty,” he added.
On Tuesday, Israeli public broadcaster, KAN, said, citing an Israeli official, that Tel Aviv has “especially cautious optimism” that a deal can be reached with Lebanon on their disputed maritime border.
Last week, US mediator, Amos Hochstein, expressed optimism over reaching a border demarcation agreement between Lebanon and Israel soon.
Lebanon and Israel are locked in a dispute over a maritime area of 860 square kilometres (332 square miles), according to maps sent by both countries to the UN in 2011.
The area is rich in natural gas and oil. Starting in 2020, five sessions of indirect negotiations have been held on the issue under UN sponsorship and US mediation, with the latest round held in May 2021.