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Hailed as 'very big victory', Lebanon finalizes maritime deal with Israel

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People walk as Israeli navy boats are seen in the Mediterranean Sea on May 4, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Lebanon and Israel have separately signed a US-brokered deal, which demarcates the maritime border in the Mediterranean Sea even though they remain technically at war.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun signed a letter approving the deal at the presidential palace in Baabda on Thursday morning in the presence of Amos Hochstein, the US envoy for energy affairs who mediated the accord. Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid signed the deal separately in al-Quds.

The agreement was later submitted to US officials at the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Lebanon’s southernmost border point of Naqoura, and signed by both sides in separate rooms.

Aoun stressed that nothing had changed in relations with Israel with the signing of the deal.

“Demarcating the southern maritime border is technical work that has no political implications,” he said. 

Top Lebanese negotiator Elias Bou Saab said the deal marked the beginning of a “new era” for Lebanon. Under the deal, Lebanon receives full rights in the Qana field.

Israel and Lebanon have technically been at war for decades. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 during the latter’s civil war and occupied Lebanese territory until 2000. Israel's last military aggression against Lebanon was in the summer of 2006.

On Thursday evening, the secretary general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement called the maritime demarcation deal with Israel a “very big victory for Lebanon and its people and resistance.”

“Our mission is complete,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said, emphasizing that the deal “is not an international treaty and must not be viewed as recognition of Israel.”

“Israel received no security guarantees,” the Hezbollah chief stressed.

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