BEIRUT — Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri asked on Thursday the Parliament's General Secretariat to "send a copy of the agreement on the delineation of the southern maritime border to all deputies for consultation after the text has been approved by the government," while some deputies have called for the agreement to be studied and voted by the Parliament.
The brief statement by Berri did not specify whether deputies would receive the English or Arabic version of the agreement.
After intense negotiations under the auspices of the United States, Israel announced on Tuesday that it had reached a "historic" agreement with Lebanon to delimit their maritime border and remove key obstacles to the development of gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. Lebanon, which had officially received the latest proposal from US mediator Amos Hochstein for the resolution of the border dispute, expressed hope on Tuesday that the agreement would be officially "announced as soon as possible."
The procedure for approving the text is under debate in Lebanon. According to Professor Rizk Zgheib, a lawyer and lecturer at the Faculty of Law and Political Science at St. Joseph University, the agreement is a "unilateral act" and does not need to be voted on by Parliament. In this case, Lebanon only needs to amend Decree 6433 of 2011, which defines its exclusive economic zone, and the amendment must be signed by the president, the prime minister and the ministers of public works and defense.
However, Forces of Change MPs, the Kataeb and experts in international law believe that the agreement is considered an international treaty, which, according to Article 52 of the Constitution, must pass through a Parliament's vote after the Council of Ministers agrees on it and before it gets ratified by the president. Berri's statement and his reference to government approval suggest that he is following the second procedure.
Earlier on Thursday, several elected officials reminded Berri, following a session to elect a new president — which was postponed due to lack of quorum — of their right to obtain a copy of the agreement's text. Forces of Change MP Melhem Khalaf said that the Parliament has not yet been officially informed of the terms of the agreement and demanded that it be discussed and voted by the House.
Forces of Change MPs announced after the session that their parliamentary group, along with colleagues from other blocks, sent a letter to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in which they emphasized that the proposed items in the maritime border agreement are "inconsistent with international law" and they "demanded that it be submitted to Parliament for a vote."
President Michel Aoun, for his part, contacted Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati Thursday afternoon to discuss the latest version of the agreement "sent by the American mediator Amos Hochstein," according to a tweet from the presidency.