Lebanese President Hassan Diab has signed a decree under which the Lebanese state claims an additional 1,430 square kilometres of the Mediterranean Sea. These are in the maritime border area with Israel, with which the country is in dispute regarding their maritime borders.
Extensive natural gas deposits have been found in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years, which have led to a number of border disputes between the littoral states, which today determine an important aspect of the political agenda of the entire region. One of these conflicts concerns the border between Lebanon and Israel, which has never been defined bilaterally before. Lebanon, in view of its miserable economic prospects, is hoping for a new source of income, while Israel already has developed natural gas production and selling.
Last year, both states, which are officially still at war with each other, therefore entered into negotiations, which are taking place under US mediation. These are the first (official) negotiations between the two states in 30 years that do not concern security issues.
The new move by Lebanon seems to have taken place without prior consultation with Israel, as first statements from the country on the subject indicate, and is therefore likely to damage the negotiations rather than improve the situation. Clearly weakened by this step is also the USA, which as mediator was not in a position to prevent such an action.
However, this step is also likely to postpone any potential extraction of natural gas on the part of Lebanon, since in such an unclear situation it is difficult to sell licences to companies for the extraction of natural gas.