Everything You Need To Know About Israel-Lebanon Maritime Dispute
Plus: US envoy meets Lebanon president, EU signs gas deal with Egypt and Israel to curb dependence on Russia, Sweden seeks constructive progress with Turkey over NATO bid, and much more.
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Explained: Renewed Israel-Lebanon maritime border dispute
The arrival of the Israeli-contracted Energean Power vessel on the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon on June 5 has brought a long-running maritime dispute between the two countries to the surface, precipitating new tensions in the region.
Following the arrival of the Energean’s floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) unit to the disputed waters to develop the Karish gas field for Israel, Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Najib Mikati warned Tel Aviv against Energean launching operations to develop Karish, located in a disputed area, while Hezbollah threatened the use of force to protect Lebanon’s natural wealth, prompting fears of a violent escalation.
As tensions rise once more around the demarcation of maritime borders between Israel and Lebanon, I wrote an article published on Middle East Eye last week to explain everything you need to know about the dispute, with maps and comments from experts, analysts, and researchers.
US envoy meets Lebanon president over Israel maritime dispute
The United States envoy mediating between Lebanon and Israel over their disputed maritime border, Amos Hochstein, met Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut on Tuesday, June 14.
The talks focused on resolving rising tensions between Beirut and Tel Aviv over the boundary between the two countries in the Mediterranean Sea.
Hochstein, a senior adviser for energy security at the US State Department, arrived in Beirut on Monday, June 13, following an invitation from the Lebanese government.
The invitation came after Israel set up a gas rig at the Karish field, which Israel says is part of its United Nations-recognised exclusive economic zone. Lebanon insists it is in a disputed area.
Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging threats, with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah last week warning he would strike the gas rig at Karish.
The heavily armed Hezbollah, which has fought several wars with Israel, has repeatedly said in the past that it would use its weapons to protect Lebanon’s economic rights.
EU signs gas deal with Egypt and Israel to curb dependence on Russia
The European Union (EU), Egypt, and Israel signed a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday, June 15, for exporting natural gas to European countries.
The deal, signed in Cairo, will help reduce the bloc’s energy dependence on Russia amid the Ukraine invasion.
According to the memorandum, the three parties will work together to get a stable supply and delivery of natural gas to the European market.
Natural gas from Israel, Egypt, and other sources in the Eastern Mediterranean region will be shipped to Europe via Egypt’s LNG (liquid natural gas) export infrastructure.
The EU would also help Egypt and Israel increase gas production and exploration in their respective territorial waters.
Last year, the EU imported around 40% of its gas from Russia. The invasion of Ukraine prompted a sharp change in EU policy which meant seeking alternative energy sources.
The EU has outlined measures to drastically reduce Russian gas imports to be fully independent of Russian fossil fuels before 2030.
Sweden seeks constructive progress with Turkey over NATO bid
Sweden seeks to make constructive progress in talks with Turkey on Ankara’s objections to the Nordic country’s application to join the NATO defense alliance, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Friday, June 10.
Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO last month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but face opposition from Turkey, which accuses them of supporting and harboring Kurdish militants and other groups it deems terrorists.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday, June 12, that Turkey has “legitimate concerns” over terrorism and other issues that need to be taken seriously. Stoltenberg stressed that “no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey” and pointed to its strategic geographic location with neighbors like Iraq and Syria.
The demands from Ankara to Helsinki and Stockholm also include lifting restrictions on arms exports to Turkey and extraditing members of certain Kurdish organizations that oppose Erdogan’s government.
UN Agency Chief Urges Iran To Resume Nuclear Talks ‘Now’
Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has called on Iran to resume talks “now” on reviving the 2015 nuclear accord before things get “much more problematic.”
In an interview broadcast on June 12 on CNN, Grossi said he told Iranian leaders that “we have to sit down now. We have to redress the situation, we have to continue working together.”
Iran last week turned off 27 cameras used by UN inspectors to monitor uranium enrichment in response to an impending IAEA adoption of a Western-led resolution criticizing the country for failing to cooperate.
The resolution criticizing Iran for failing to explain uranium traces found at three undeclared sites was approved by 30 members of the IAEA board, with only Russia and China voting against it, according to agency reports quoting unidentified diplomats.
Senior Iranian nuclear officials had warned that passing the resolution could seriously damage attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.
Grossi told CNN that without observation cameras, the IAEA would soon be unable to declare whether the Iranian nuclear program is “peaceful” or whether Iran is developing an atomic weapon.
UAE bans exports of India-sourced wheat, restricts others
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced restrictions on wheat exports on June 15, including supplies from India.
The Emirati Ministry of Economy said that exports of Indian wheat and wheat flour are prohibited for four months.
The Ministry of Economy said the decision was motivated by global supply chain disruptions and the recent trade agreement between the UAE and India.
India is a major source of the UAE’s wheat supply. In 2020, India was the top exporter of wheat flour to the UAE. According to the US-based Observatory of Economic Complexity, the Emirates also exported wheat flour to several countries, including Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Russia’s invasion of the eastern European country has severely disrupted the global wheat trade, especially in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthis resume direct talks
Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthi movement have resumed direct talks to discuss security along the kingdom’s border and future relations under any peace deal with Yemen, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday, June 14.
The resumption of talks is a positive sign for efforts by the United Nations and the United States to find a political settlement to the conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
Oman facilitated the virtual talks between senior Saudi and Houthi officials, both sources said, with one adding that there were also plans for a face-to-face meeting in Muscat if there is enough progress.
The Saudi government did not respond to a request for comment. A Houthi official declined to comment.
Fighting between rival militias rocks Libya’s capital Tripoli
Heavy exchanges of gunfire and explosions ricocheted across several districts of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Friday night, June 10, while images broadcast by local press and circulated on social media showed civilians fleeing heavily-trafficked areas.
Local media reported medical sources saying four civilians were wounded in the clashes.
The intense fighting involved two influential militias from western Libya identified as the Nawasi Brigade – a militia loyal to politician Fathi Bashagha – and the Stability Support Force, which backs interim premier Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
No reason for the fighting was immediately apparent, but it is the latest violence to rock the country as two rival prime ministers vie for power.
After a 2011 revolt toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, political infighting to fill the power vacuum has plagued oil-rich Libya.
Last month, Bashagha attempted to seize power by force, sparking pre-dawn clashes between armed groups supporting him and those backing Dbeibah.
Dbeibah was appointed under a troubled United Nations-led peace process early last year to lead a transition to elections set for December 2021, but the vote was indefinitely postponed.
In February, parliament appointed Bashagha, a one-time interior minister, to take over, arguing that Dbeibah’s mandate had ended.
But Dbeibah has insisted he will only relinquish power to an elected administration.
US-led coalition says it detained senior ISIS leader in Syria
The US-led coalition said it had detained a senior Islamic State group leader in Syria during an early-morning operation on Thursday, June 16.
The coalition conducts raids and strikes targeting members of the jihadist group, which has been waging insurgent attacks since its defeat on the battlefield three years ago.
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My name is Dario Sabaghi, a freelance journalist. I am interested in human rights and international news focusing on the MENA region.
Check out my work at dariosabaghi.com.
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