On Thursday, copies of a sea border agreement brokered by the US were signed by Israel and Lebanon and delivered to the UN. at Naqoura, a border town on the ocean.
After months of indirect negotiations mediated by Amos Hochstein, the U.S. envoy for energy affairs, the agreement to delineate the maritime border would significantly improve ties between the two countries, which have been officially at war since Israel’s inception in 1948.
Around 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea, which is home to offshore gas deposits, are claimed by both Israel and Lebanon.
With three-quarters of its population living in poverty due to a devastating economic crisis, Lebanon hopes that defining maritime borders will open the door for gas exploration.
Israel anticipates that the agreement will lessen the possibility of war with Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militant organization in Lebanon.
Israel and Lebanon dispatched delegations to UNIFIL, who obtained signed copies of the maritime border agreement and verified coordinates from each nation.
In a statement released on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden of the United States noted that the agreement benefits Israel and Lebanon.
“This agreement takes us one step closer to realizing a vision for the Middle East that is more secure, integrated, and prosperous, delivering benefits for all the people of the region,” the statement read.
Before traveling to Naqoura on Thursday, Hochstein met with President Michel Aoun, Interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and Speaker Nabih Berri.
He traveled to Israel to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid after the agreement.
According to a statement from his office, Lapid signed the contract after Hochstein met with Aoun.