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Prime Minister Hassan Diab has reportedly refused to convene the outgoing government to discuss the decree concerning the demarcation of the exclusive maritime zone in southern Lebanon, an area also claimed by Israel. As a reminder, the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun suspended the signing of this decree, asking that the Council of Ministers can meet to discuss this file.

The Presidency therefore considers that a cabinet meeting is necessary, according to the opinion of the Committee on Legislation and Consultations ”of the Ministry of Justice,“ even in the presence of an interim cabinet ”

This decree was successively initialed by the outgoing Minister of Transport Michel Najjar, of Defense Zeina Akar and the outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab before being referred to the Presidency of the Republic.

In addition, sources close to the Palace of Baabda indicate that a discussion would also take place with the United Nations and the United States within the framework of the same file, whereas US Under Secretary of State David Hale is currently in Lebanon . The request of the head of state would be induced by the need to be mandated and constitutionally able to address this subject.

The text of the decree expands Lebanese claims to 1,430 square kilometers in its dispute with the Hebrew state and comes despite Israeli warnings.

“Any unilateral Lebanese measure will have a unilateral Israeli response”, had threatened the Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz, while negotiations between the two countries are currently at a standstill.

This signing comes despite firm messages from the United States to the Lebanese leadership, confirming that the Israeli authorities would then withdraw from negotiations with Lebanon and begin exploration of the disputed sea areas.

In addition, the Under-Secretary of State in charge of the Middle East David Hale is expected in Lebanon on Wednesday. This is his last visit to the region before the end of his term. It may be a question of reactivating the negotiations between Lebanon and Israel.

Focus: The delimitation of the economic zone between Lebanon and Israel

As a reminder, at the origin of this problem, the negotiations between Lebanon and Cyprus in 2011. The starting point of the zone was arbitrarily fixed by the 2 countries at point 1 of the borders.
Therefore, the Hebrew State has decided to continue the delimitation of its maritime borders at point 25 according to its measures which corresponds to point 1 for Lebanon.
However, Lebanon estimated from the start that the starting point of its economic exclusivity zone was at point 0, according to Beirut or 23, according to the Hebrew state and located 17 km south of point 1, fixed during negotiations. between Tel Aviv and Nicosia.
Thus is delimited a triangle going from point B1 located at Ras al Naqoura to point 0 then to point 1.
This area is claimed by the 2 states, Lebanon and Israel. It thus covers more than 800 square kilometers. Part of blocks 8, 9 and 10 are thus at the center of the controversy.
The situation was worsened by the discovery of a significant potential of gas and oil deposits in this area.
Lebanon says it has maps proving that the area belongs to it.

In addition, the Hoff line named after the American mediator who had already taken up the case in 2011 and which Beirut had already rejected, grants 560 square kilometers to Lebanon and the remainder to Tel Aviv.

In 2019, when negotiations looked like they could be relaunched between Lebanon and Israel, they came to a screeching halt for reasons hitherto unknown. The tension between the 2 countries has also increased with the discovery of tunnels crossing the blue line, the dividing line between the 2 countries.

On October 14, 2020, negotiations between Lebanon and Israel opened at UNIFIL HQ in Naqoura and in the presence of the American mediator, the United States Under Secretary of State, David Schenker, and under the auspices of the coordinator UN Special in Lebanon Jan Kubis.

Tel Aviv, announcing the existence of 2 islets in its territory – uninhabited islets – located not far from the Israeli coast would also have also extended its claims on the Lebanese blocs.

During the 3rd round of negotiations which took place on October 28, Lebanon thus hardened its position and informed the Israeli delegation about its new demands, expanding the exclusive maritime zone to 1,430 additional square kilometers to the detriment of Israel, by extending the land border with a straight line. This zone would include several gas fields already discovered and allocated by Israel to a Greek exploitation company. These Lebanese demands should therefore freeze the exploitation of these fields until an agreement is reached.
It is for Lebanon not to make any concessions on its maritime areas when Israel previously claimed part of them, note some sources, who expected that an agreement could be reached before the end of the year, granting all the original area to Lebanon.

In addition, on April 5, 2021, it is indicated that negotiations between the 2 countries could resume after the publication of a report stating the possible existence of a large gas field in the area even if this remains theoretical for the moment.

Indeed, for the moment, no progress has been noted on this subject, and no meeting is currently officially scheduled.

In addition, decree 6,433 was signed by the ministers of transport Michel Najjar, of defense Zeina Akkar and the outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in April 2021, while the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun has decided to suspend his signature pending the government meeting, which the Prime Minister refuses.
This decree formalizes the Lebanese position of enlarging its exclusive economic zone while on the Israeli side, we are preparing to launch an exploratory campaign in the zone.

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