In Brief: Israel and Lebanon move towards gas row agreement


Noa natural gas field > Uri Kfir, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Israeli and Lebanese negotiators have restarted talks over disputed offshore gas reserves in the Mediterranean sea.

Previous talks over the maritime border dispute  collapsed in October 2020 following an attempt by Beirut to extend its claims deep into what Israel considers its exclusive economic zone.

Israel pushed back in November, with energy minister Yuval Steinitz visiting the tiny island of Tekheilet, off Rosh Hanikra on the Israeli-Lebanese border, to assert Israel’s claim to the region.

The renewed Israeli-Lebanese talks last week lasted six hours, and followed Beirut rowing back on its claims in the maritime region. As in previous rounds of talks between the two – which technically remain in a state of war – the United States acted as a mediator. Israel’s energy ministry said that further talks may take place, in a cautious sign of hope.

The origins of the dispute lie in Israel’s lack of a mutually recognised land border with Lebanon, which has been the case since 1949. This ambiguity has allowed key terrain features to be claimed without mutual recognition, including where they extend into the sea.

Beirut sees the offshore gas reserves as a much-needed asset for Lebanon’s beleaguered economy.