Beirut sent Washington remarks to a US proposal on resolving a long-running maritime border dispute with Israel over gas-rich waters of the countries' Mediterranean coasts, says a senior Lebanese official.
Lebanon has submitted to the United States a list of changes it would like to see in a proposal on how to delineate a contested maritime border with Israel.
Lebanon's "response was presented to the American ambassador today", said deputy parliament speaker Elias Bou Saab on Tuesday, who is tasked by President Michel Aoun to oversee the US-mediated negotiations.
"I think that it is now in the hands of the US mediator," he said during a TV broadcast, adding that the response included "modifications" to the US proposal.
A draft agreement floated by US envoy Amos Hochstein aims to settle competing claims over offshore gas fields and was delivered to Lebanese and Israeli officials on the weekend, following years of indirect negotiations.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that the proposal was "on the right track to assert Lebanon's rights over all its waters".
Washington's offer has not been made public, but it has raised prospects for a deal that could help Lebanon explore potential gas wealth that the debt-ridden country desperately needs.
On Monday, Lebanon's top leaders met to discuss the offer, delivered via Washington's ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea.
Bou Saab said he does not think the proposed changes would derail the deal and that, while the response did not signify approval of the draft, talks were so advanced that "we are done negotiating."
Speaking to local broadcaster LBCI, he said the draft deal had been produced by thinking "outside of the box."
"We started to talk about it as a business deal," Bou Saab said.
He said that, according to the draft deal, Lebanon had secured all of the maritime blocs it considered its own.
He added that Lebanon will not pay one cent from its share of Qana (gas field) area to Israel.
Lebanon official on maritime deal with Israel:— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) October 4, 2022
– Negotiations on maritime border with Israel "are done"
– Lebanon "will not pay one cent from its share of Qana [area] to Israel"
– Suggested amendments to maritime border with Israel will not derail deal pic.twitter.com/qSbxvcxfyz
'No room for misunderstanding'
Lebanon and Israel are officially at war and their land border is patrolled by the United Nations.
They reopened negotiations on their maritime border in 2020, but the process was stalled by Lebanon's demand that the map used by the UN in the talks be modified.
The negotiations resumed in early June after Israel moved a production vessel near the Karish offshore field.
The latest proposal by Washington was welcomed by both Israel and Hezbollah, a major player in Lebanon that considers Israel its arch-enemy.
A Lebanese official involved in the negotiations had said the remarks include "amendments of specific sentences so that there is no room for misunderstanding".