Maritime deal with Lebanon 'possible and necessary', Lapid says

As border demarcation talks enter final stages, PM says agreement must 'serve interests of citizens of both countries', adds Israel will begin gas production from contentious Karish gas field regardless of talks
Itamar Eichner|
Israel believes that it is "possible and necessary" to reach an agreement on its long-standing maritime border dispute with Lebanon "in a way that will serve the interests of the citizens of both countries," Prime Minister Yair Lapid's office said in a statement on Monday.
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  • The statement also thanked Amos Hochstein, the U.S. mediator in the border demarcation talks, for "his hard work in trying to reach an agreement. The agreement will contribute a lot and benefit regional stability."
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    ראש הממשלה יאיר לפיד בטיסה מעל אסדת הגז כריש
    ראש הממשלה יאיר לפיד בטיסה מעל אסדת הגז כריש
    Yair Lapid flying over the Karish gas rig
    (Photo: GPO)
    Lapid noted, however, that gas production from the Karish gas field is connected to the negotiations and "will commence without delay, as soon as it is possible".
    Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah group has threatened to attack the gas rig in case Israel starts pumping gas before reaching an agreement, which prompted belligerent rhetoric from Jerusalem in response.
    The deal would allow both countries to develop energy resources in their maritime exclusive economic zone and would hand Lebanon a much-needed lifeline as it reels under the worst economic crisis in its modern history.
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    עמוס הוכשטיין
    עמוס הוכשטיין
    U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein
    Earlier on Monday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that "exploring in Lebanese waters will contribute to reviving the Lebanese economy, which has witnessed a significant decline during the past years, as well as enhancing security and stability in the south” of its borders.
    An Israeli official said that Lapid's statements were aimed to make Israel's intentions clear to Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Washington. Israel and the U.S. are hoping an agreement can be reached before Israel's general elections in November.
    U.S. mediator Hochstein laid out a proposal that leaned toward the Lebanese claim to a zone from a boundary known as "Line 23". Israel has agreed under the condition that a 5-kilometer long line of buoys remains, stretching from Rosh Hanikra westward and providing a larger buffer zone between the countries.
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    אסדת ''כריש'' והספינה אח''י אילת
    אסדת ''כריש'' והספינה אח''י אילת
    Karish gas rig
    (Photo: IDF Spokespersons Unit)
    Hochstein presented Israel's conditions to Beirut and is currently waiting on a response.
    The Energy Ministry will begin running tests in the Karish rig later this week to ensure the safety of its pipelines. Greek drilling company Energean, which holds the rights in Karish, announced that production would begin by the end of September, but there is still no certainty that this will be the case.
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