Israel-Lebanon Maritime Boundary Negotiations - Some Unique Aspects

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Amb. Alan Baker - After a rift of over 30 years since any meaningful negotiations took place between Lebanon and Israel, the two countries have now agreed to conduct negotiations on their mutual maritime border, with the U.S. as mediator and facilitator. The most important factor in pushing both states towards negotiating is the potential economic benefits to Lebanon and Israel of cooperation in the extraction and marketing of natural gas. According to an estimate of the U.S. Geological Survey in 2010, unexplored potential reserves in the Levant Basin amount to 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas - the world's largest gas finds in decades. However, unlike routine border negotiations between neighboring states at peace with each other, a prevailing atmosphere of hostility, suspicion, lack of trust, and a long history of armed conflict and terror, renders this particular dispute as unique. Lebanon's political leadership have, up to the present, represented the two countries as being in an ongoing state of armed conflict. Yet on May 17, 1983, the two countries agreed to formally end the state of war between them and grant mutual recognition of each country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Moreover, in the context of the 1991 Madrid Conference, more than a dozen rounds of bilateral talks were held between Israel and Lebanon in 1991-1993. As Amb. Freddy Eytan noted in the Times of Israel (in French) on October 4: "Of course, this is not a peace agreement with the country of the Cedar because Hizbullah refuses any direct contact or compromise with the 'Zionist enemy.' [Yet] for the first time, Lebanese leaders such as the Shiite President of the National Assembly, Nabih Berry, no longer use the term 'enemy' when referring to the State of Israel." "The new negotiations, although limited in time and space, present a de facto "recognition" of the existence of the neighboring Israeli state." The writer directs the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Center's international law program. In his capacity as legal adviser of Israel's Foreign Ministry, he participated in the international negotiations on the drafting of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as in the bilateral negotiations between Israel and Lebanon in 1982-3 and 1991-3.

2020-10-12 00:00:00

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