Mikati: US Guarantees Will Protect Lebanon’s Maritime Deal with Israel
Lebanon's caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati told Reuters by phone on Wednesday that US guarantees would protect a maritime border deal with Israel should Israel's conservative former premier Benjamin Netanyahu win a majority in elections.
Netanyahu had threatened to "neutralize" the agreement, which came into force last week after years of indirect US-brokered talks and set out the sea boundary between the two enemy states.
Lebanon and Israel both claim around 860 square kilometres of the Mediterranean Sea that are home to offshore gas fields.
Beirut hopes that the maritime border agreement with Israel will lead to gas exploration in the Mediterranean. That will presumably help Lebanon come out of its economic crisis that has been described by the World Bank as one of the worst the world has witnessed since the 1850s.
The mediator for the talks, US energy envoy Amos Hochstein, told reporters in Lebanon that he expected the deal to withstand both contentious Israel elections and a transition to a new president in Lebanon.
Mikati appeared confident, too, telling Reuters in a phone interview from the Arab League Summit in Algiers that he was "not afraid" for the fate of the deal.
"We're not afraid of a change in the authorities in Israel. Whether Netanyahu wins or someone else, no one can stand in the way of this (deal)," he said.
He said the United States "as the sponsor of this deal" would be responsible for its smooth implementation.