BEIRUT — Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab, Lebanon's main negotiator over the maritime border with Israel, announced Tuesday morning from the Presidential Palace in Baabda that the final proposal transmitted to Lebanon by American mediator Amos Hochstein grants Beirut "all its rights."
Bou Saab made these statements as he left a meeting with President Michel Aoun, to whom he handed the final proposal from Washington.
"I hope that President Aoun will complete his mandate with the delimitation of his maritime border," said Bou Saab, who is close to the Free Patriotic Movement, which Aoun founded. Aoun's six-year presidential term ends on Oct. 31.
President Aoun "will study the proposal and consult with the prime minister and the speaker of parliament," said Elias Bou Saab. "This proposal gives Lebanon all its rights."
The United States has been mediating between Lebanon and Israel for two years to reach an agreement on their maritime border. The two countries had indicated in early October their satisfaction with a draft agreement from American mediator Amos Hochstein. But last Thursday, Israel stated its rejection of a series of Lebanese amendments to the draft agreement, which had dampened hopes of a breakthrough.
In recent days, behind-the-scenes negotiations have continued, and early Tuesday morning Lebanon and Israel said that the deal satisfies all of their requirements and could imminently lead to a "historic deal."
"For us, the file is closed and is now in the hands of the president. The atmosphere is very positive and I can say that we have reached a solution that satisfies both parties. It was difficult because we are talking about two states that do not recognize each other," added Bou Saab on Tuesday. "In the coming hours, the decision will return to the president of the republic to give answers," he concluded.
Bou Saab did not, however, reveal the content of the final proposal that was transmitted to the Lebanese authorities. In response to a question from the press, he nevertheless affirmed that there is "no sharing regarding the Qana field."
"There was an agreement between TotalEnergies and the Israelis, but we are not aware of the content of this agreement. However, Lebanon will have all its rights in the Qana field," Bou Saab said.
TotalEnergies, which is part of a consortium to explore potential oil and gas blocks off the Lebanese coast, is expected to explore and exploit the Qana field for Lebanon. However, this field extends southwards beyond the area bordered by Line 23, which is claimed by Lebanon. TotalEnergies is expected to play the role of intermediary between the two countries by paying a fee to Israel in exchange for the country ceding full access to the Qana field to Lebanon.
"The remarks made by Lebanon have been taken into account in the final version, and the debate is over around this version and the changes that have been made," Bou Saab said from Ain al-Tineh in Beirut, after a meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
In remarks reported by local channel LBCI, Bou Saab said that "the agreement will be sent to the United Nations," rather than directly to Israeli authorities. "It is not an agreement between Lebanon and a country that we do not recognize, but with the United States," he continued.
Bou Saab then handed a copy of the agreement to caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who said in a statement he hoped that "the file will soon come to an end, after the success of Amos Hochstein's efforts in his version of the agreement that protects Lebanese rights." Mikati also welcomed the "unified position" of Lebanon, which he said made it possible "to achieve this success."
"We all hope that the matter will be completed and that we will then be able to start the actual stages of gas exploration in Lebanese waters," Mikati added.