This "Key Issue" will be updated frequently, more Questions & Answers will be added frequently.
Question 1: What is the maritime border dispute?
Delimitation of Exclusive Economic Zones - Lebanon
Any state that is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) should proclaim its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) according to Article 75 in the UNCLOS. Proclaiming its EEZ means that a State must submit to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General a list of geographical coordinates in addition to charts that define the limit of the zone. Having signed and ratified the UNCLOS in January 1995 according to the UNCLOS Bulletin, Lebanon deposited (on the 24th of August 2010) the lists of geographical coordinates of points that define the Southern limit of Lebanon’s EEZ. These submitted coordinates presented the position information for the median line between Lebanon and the southern-border neighboring country.
However the process becomes subject to some conditions whenever a State has adjacent or opposite coasts. According to the Statue of the International Court of Justice, an equitable solution whereby a State successfully delimits its EEZ “is affected by agreement on the basis of international law”. Knowing that Lebanon’s maritime area is surrounded by Cyprus from the West, Syria from the North, and Occupied Palestine from the South, an agreement should happen between the countries in order to attain an equitable solution.
The current situation has the below as facts. It was in 2007 -after launching the two dimensional and three dimensional seismic surveys for Lebanon’s offshore- when Lebanon and Cyprus signed a bilateral agreement that marked six coordinates between the two States using the equidistant line method. The agreement kept room for amendment of two points 1 and 6 for future delimitation. Cyprus then ratified the agreement, however Lebanon did not. Later on in 2009, geographers from the Lebanese army further developed the Lebanon’s limits for the EEZ which were approved by the Cabinet and deposited at the office of the UN Secretary General in 2010 as mentioned above.
Few months later in 2010, Israel and Cyprus signed a similar bilateral agreement to delimit their own EEZ with twelve points- the first being in the exact position of the first point in the Lebanon-Cyprus agreement and thus infringing Lebanon’s EEZ by around 850 square kilometers.
Israel’s parliament ratified the Israel-Cyprus EEZ agreement. Lebanon then submitted to the UN what it considered the correct points of its EEZ to the UN and Lebanese Parliament finally ratified its own EEZ law.
Lebanese politicians over time have made all sorts of claims ranging from asking UNIFIL to step in, asking the UN to moderate, or asking for a third party moderation. Up to date, the US, has led a so far unsuccessful third-party moderation. In May 2012, Fredric Hof submitted a plan that created a provisional maritime separation line and buffer zone where no petroleum activities will happen. The plan gave 60% of the disputed area to Lebanon. The plan met with dislike from Beirut but no official response was made to the plan.
In November 2013, Amos J. Hochstein submitted another proposal that was named the blue line, whereby a blue line, similar to the one established by the UN in 2000. The temporary line, was meant to prohibit any petroleum activity within the disputed area. This proposal was met with dislike from the Israeli part. All negotiations after that were halted.
Recently, and after Pompeo’s visit to Lebanon, there has been revived discussions around resolving the disputed maritime border issue.