The countries’ negotiators said on Tuesday that they have received a final draught of a US coastal border agreement that meets all their demands and could lead immediately to a “historic agreement.”
“If all goes well, Amos Hochstein’s efforts could immediately lead to a historic agreement,” Lebanon’s chief negotiator Bou Saab told Reuters minutes after receiving the draught from US official Hochstein, who engaged in months of shuttle diplomacy to try to reach a conclusion.
In the dispute, Israel’s national security adviser, Eyal Hulata, who led Israel’s negotiating team, echoed Saab’s words: “All our demands were met; the changes we asked for were fixed. “We defended Israel’s security interests and are on our way to a historic agreement,” he said in a statement.
Although the agreement is limited, it would alleviate security and economic problems in both countries, whose common history is full of conflict.
The agreement resolves a territorial dispute at the eastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea in an area where Lebanon is searching for natural gas and near waters where Israel has already found commercially viable hydrocarbons.
Hezbollah, the Lebanese party and militia backed by Iran, has threatened to use force against Israel if Israel searches for gas near the disputed area before Lebanon can do so in its maritime territory.
“We received the final draught a few minutes ago… Lebanon felt that it took into account all the demands of Lebanon, and we believe that the other side should feel the same way,” Bou Saab said.
Last week, Israel rejected last-minute changes to the Lebanon accord that appeared to threaten long-term efforts to reach an agreement soon.
Officials from both countries have been in close contact in recent days through an American mediator to resolve the remaining differences.
The president of Lebanon said that the agreement does not mean a “partnership” with Israel, a country that Lebanon neither recognizes nor officially considers an enemy.
“We are avoiding a certain war in the region,” said Lebanon’s interim prime minister, Najib Mikati, last week.
A date for the signing has not yet been set, Israeli energy minister Karine Elharrar told Army Radio. Elections in Israel will be held on November 1. and it is still unclear whether the agreement would need parliamentary approval.