The disputes over the border have elevated tensions between the two enemy countries
Lebanon is prepared to demarcate its maritime border with Israel under the supervision of the United Nations and with the same mechanism used for the Blue Line.
“We are ready to draw Lebanon’s maritime borders and those of the Exclusive Economic Zone using the same procedure that was used to draw the Blue Line under the supervision of the United Nations,” Lebanon’s Speaker of the House Nabih Berri said according to Lebanon’s National News Agency.
The UN-demarcated Blue Line currently separates Lebanon and Israel’s territory with over 200 points. Thirteen of the points are disputed by the Lebanese government.
According to the report, Head of Mission and Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon Maj.-Gen. Stefano Del Col told Berri that the mechanism used to draw the Blue Line could also be used to resolve the maritime border issue and enhance stability.
The two countries have an unresolved maritime border dispute over a triangular area of sea of around 860 sq km that extends along several blocks for exploratory offshore drilling Lebanon put for tender two years ago.
Beirut claims that Blocks 8 and 9 in the disputed maritime waters are in Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and parts of Block 9 run through waters that Israel claims as it’s EEZ.
Recently discovered oil and gas reserves off the shores of Lebanon and Israel are predicted to generate up to $600 billion over the next few decades and in December 2017 Beirut signed contracts with three international companies to explore oil and gas in two of the blocks.
Lebanon and Russia also signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on oil and gas in October 2013.
Israel also views its offshore oil and gas reserves as highly valuable,both to economically and strategically. Jerusalem has made agreements with Egypt to sell surplus gas and agreed earlier this year to partake in an Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum which includes seven members – Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian Authority.
In November of last year, Israel reportedly signed an ambitious project to build a 2,000 kilometer undersea gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus to Crete to mainland Greece and Italy to supply natural gas. The construction of the pipeline is expected to take five years and cost some eight billion dollars.
Due to the pipeline, Greece and Cyprus were reported by al-Hayat to have offered their help in mediating the demarcation of the maritime border with Lebanon.
Disagreement over Israel’s ongoing construction of the border wall, and Lebanon’s plans to explore for offshore oil and gas in disputed maritime waters, have elevated tensions between the two countries who are officially still at war.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006, which came to an end under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which called for disarmament of Hezbollah, for withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon, for the deployment of the Lebanese army and an enlarged UN force in the south.