BEIRUT: American mediation efforts to resolve a maritime dispute between Israel and Lebanon appeared to be revived this week, following months of impasse over an oil-rich area in the Mediterranean Sea.
Reports of a deal emerged during the visit of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States, where he met President Barack Obama.
There, the two leaders discussed the issue of the maritime border, and the U.S. might soon present a settlement, according to Israel’s Channel 2 TV.
Israel and Lebanon both lay claim to an area that spans some 860 square kilometers off the coast of the two countries and is said to be rich in gas and oil.
But Mohammad Qabbani, head of Parliament’s Public Works, Transport, Energy and Water Committee, questioned whether a new proposal could resolve the deadlock.
“I don’t know if the Americans have something new because they already tried to mediate around six months ago through Frederic Hof,” he said.
Qabbani was referring to a visit in February by U.S. Special Coordinator for Regional Affairs Frederic Hof, who said at the time that the White House was willing to help Israel and Lebanon to resolve the dispute over the EEZ – the maritime area in which a given state enjoys special rights governing the use of economic resources.
In February, the Americans tried to broker a compromise under which 550 square kilometers of the area would be recognized as Lebanese, while discussions over the rest of the EEZ would be put on hold, Qabbani said.
He added that the proposal was never officially tabled at the time. Lebanon’s officially lays claim to the entire EEZ, however.
“We want a full recognition of the entire border of our EEZ,” he said.
Lebanon’s EEZ is estimated to be worth between $5 billion and $8 billion.
Media reports Monday cited Lebanese sources familiar with the issue as saying the U.S. had presented a new package to Israel that includes a complete solution to the maritime border issue.