Karish gas platform near the Lebanese border
Karish gas platform near the Lebanese borderEnergean

According to a report in the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper, Israel and Lebanon are close to signing an agreement that will establish their maritime borders.

The question is not just one of the waters themselves, but also of the valuable underwater gas deposits, discovered in recent years. The report suggests that the two countries have agreed that the Karish gas fields will remain in Israeli hands.

Amos Hochstein, a former Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs to the American government, is believed to be behind the progress in the talks between Israel and Lebanon and has been working intensively in order to secure an agreement. Hochstein met with the Lebanese president at the end of last week, and separately with two senior Israeli officials whom the report does not name.

Hochstein's visit to the region was motivated not only by a wish to achieve a maritime agreement but also out of a desire to avoid any escalation of tensions between Israel and Lebanon, after a prolonged period of strained relations between the countries.