Skip to main content

Israel, Lebanon agree to maritime border talks

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz confirmed today that Israel and Lebanon will open direct talks on demarking their maritime border with US mediation.
The Tungsten Explorer, an off-shore oil and gas exploration drillship, is seen in the background as people bathe in the Mediterranean water off the coast of Jounieh bay, north of Lebanon's capital Beirut, on May 19, 2020, despite beaches being legally closed due to COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions. - Lebanon gradually started lifting a COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown that has compounded its economic crisis despite an uptick in cases that prompted a four-day lockdown. Across the Mediterranean, a seasonal reco

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi confirmed Oct. 1 that Israel and Lebanon will soon discuss demarking their maritime border. Talks are expected to be launched after Israel's Sukkoth holiday in mid-October and will be conducted under the auspices of the United States. Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri has also confirmed the news.

"I would like to thank US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his staff for their dedicated efforts that have led to the beginning of direct talks between Israel and Lebanon on the demarcation of the maritime boundary. This is an important step that has come after three years of diplomatic contacts and would not have been possible without US mediation. I believe that success in the talks will significantly contribute to the stability of the region and promote prosperity for the citizens of both Israel and Lebanon. I thank Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz for the successful cooperation between our two ministries on advancing this issue," tweeted Ashkenazi.

Steinitz also made a statement, saying, "We look forward to the opening of direct negotiations in the near future. Our objective is to end the dispute over the economic maritime demarcation of the water between Israel and Lebanon in order to help develop natural resources for the benefit of all peoples in the region.”

The Israel-Lebanon talks are expected to take place in the southern Lebanon border town Naqoura, at the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). As Israel objected to the United Nations mediating the talks, the body will instead host the talks with a UN observer present, but an American team will facilitate them. UNIFIL said in a statement today that it "welcomes today's announcement of a framework agreement to launch negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on maritime border demarcation between the two countries. UNIFIL stands ready to extend to the parties all the support at its disposal and facilitate efforts towards a resolution of this issue."

The US mediation team will apparently be headed by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker, who had been involved in earlier contacts between Jerusalem and Beirut and visited both countries on several occasions in the past few months. On Sept. 8, Schenker said he hoped to sign a framework agreement on starting discussions "in the coming weeks."

Steinitz had been working recently with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and other officials in the Foreign Ministry to reach this agreement with Lebanon. The two countries have been at odds over an 860-square-kilometer (534-square-mile) maritime territory for over a decade, since the discovery of possible marine gas fields off the coast. Israeli diplomats noted to Al-Monitor that the two countries had not held direct talks in many years and called the agreement a historic breakthrough.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial