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26 May, 2024
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Cyprus probes dotted line in Israel-Lebanon deal

Nicosia sends note verbale to Beirut as old misgivings resurface over contentious Line 23


The foreign ministry in the Republic of Cyprus has sent a note verbale to Beirut in reference to a maritime border deal between Israel and Lebanon, which reportedly includes a contentious line that Nicosia had crossed a decade ago.

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides on Monday made comments about the Israel-Lebanon maritime deal, welcoming the agreement between the two longtime foes and also expressing the hope that “in a similar way, Turkey will move forward on the issue of EEZ delimitation with Cyprus."

Kasoulides, who was in Brussels to attend a General Affairs Council on Tuesday, also called on the EU to focus on the problems facing Lebanon as well as the importance of stability in the country and its broader impact on security in the region.

Back in 2010, Lebanon had raised concerns over a Cypriot-Israeli agreement, with Beirut asserting that Nicosia had failed to consult with them on an amendment of the median unitary line with Israel

But things got more complicated on Tuesday morning after Cypriot foreign ministry officials acknowledged on state radio that Nicosia had sent a note verbale to Beirut right after the Israel-Lebanon deal was made known last week.

According to foreign ministry spokesperson Demetris Demetriou, Cyprus was following a standard procedure in order to clarify the details of the Israel-Lebanon deal, which was brokered by US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein.

America’s energy czar managed to get Israel and Lebanon, two nations technically still at war, to agree on a demarcation of their maritime borders on Line 23, a previous red flag for Beirut.

In a nutshell, Beirut is giving up claims on Karish gas field while the Qana field would now fall mostly within Lebanese economic waters, with experts saying Israel would have to pay royalties to Lebanon in good faith.

But as Cyprus and Israel are still disputing a similar arrangement for a shared deposit, Line 23 was also not unfamiliar to Nicosia, which had reached a deal with Beirut in 2007.

Back in 2010, Lebanon had raised concerns over a Cypriot-Israeli agreement, with Beirut asserting that Nicosia had failed to consult with them on an amendment of the median unitary line with Israel.

Beirut had claimed that the Cyprus-Israel agreement would deprive Lebanon of a large area and further argued that Nicosia had breached Article 1-d of the Lebanon-Cyprus 2007.

“At the request of any of the two parties, any further improvement on the positional accuracy of the median line will be agreed upon by the two parties using the same principles, when more accurate data are available,” the article said.

But Nicosia at the time argued that it had no obligation to consult Beirut because Lebanon had not ratified the treaty, something that still has not happened to this day.

Greek Cypirot media this week said Nicosia was seeking to revive talks with Beirut on the two countries' exclusive economic zones.

In April 2022 Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said Beirut and Nicosia had “no problem” during a visit to the Cypriot capital, adding that “once we found gas we’re ready to go, put it together.”

Although details of the Israeli-Lebanese deal have been leaked, Demetriou said the Cypriot government was seeking official information from Beirut, adding that a note verbale was simply standard procedure.

A note verbale is diplomatic communication from one government to another, delivered through representatives, but instead of being verbal it is usually given on official letterhead and typically written in the third person.

Cyprus  |  Lebanon  |  Israel  |  maritime  |  energy  |  demarcation  |  note verbale  |  gas  |  Amos Hochstein

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