Israel on Monday warned that it would respond to any Lebanese move to unilaterally demarcate its water border with reciprocal steps.
The Israeli warning came after Lebanon announced earlier on Monday signing a decree to expand its maritime border.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who leads maritime border negotiations with Lebanon, said in a written statement that “any unilateral Lebanese step will be met with parallel Israeli steps.”
Earlier on Monday, Lebanon said it has signed a decree expanding the maritime borders of its exclusive economic zone, which is disputed with Israel.
“I signed today a decree to amend Decree No. 6433, related to delineating the borders of the exclusive economic zone in southern Lebanon,” Minister of Public Works and
Transport Michel Najjar told reporters.
He went on to say: “There is a clear message from the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, which was addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations [Antonio Guterres] about changes that took place in Decree 6433.”
He stressed that “the message confirms Lebanon’s right to the island of Karish and some of the kilometers that Israel has taken.”
Issued in 2011, decree 6433 defines the exclusive economic zone of Lebanon from the southern, western and northern sides, and stipulates the possibility of reviewing and improving the borders of this region.
The new amendment includes adding 1,430 square kilometers (over 552 square miles) to Lebanon from its shared maritime border with Israel, thus making the size of the disputed area 2,290 square kilometers (884 square miles). Monday’s move comes in response to a proposal for an amendment announced by the Lebanese army last month.
In October 2020, indirect negotiations kicked off between Lebanon and Israel to demarcate their maritime borders, under the auspices of the UN and the US, following a dispute over the oil and natural gas-rich region in the Mediterranean.
A fifth round of talks was scheduled for Dec. 2 before it was postponed to an “indefinite period.”