Israel, Lebanon sign landmark maritime border deal

STORY: Israeli and Lebanese leaders signed a landmark U.S.-brokered agreement on their maritime boundary on Thursday (October 27).

The historic two-sided effort marks a diplomatic departure from decades of hostility, and paves the way for offshore energy exploration.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun signed a letter approving the deal in Baabda, followed by Prime Minister Yair Lapid's signature in Jerusalem.

At the start of a cabinet meeting, Lapid hailed the move.

"This is a diplomatic achievement. It is not every day that an enemy country recognizes the State of Israel, in a written agreement, in view of the international community. It is not every day the United States and France stand behind us and provide security and economic guarantees for an agreement. This is also an economic achievement."

Lebanese negotiator Elias Bou Saab said it marked the beginning of "a new era" between the two sides, which technically remain at war.

The accord removes one source of potential conflict between Israel and Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

And could help alleviate Lebanon's economic crisis.

Amos Hochstein, the U.S. envoy who mediated the negotiation, told reporters he expects the agreement to hold -- regardless of changes in leadership in both countries.

"I truly believe and hope that this could be an economic turning point in Lebanon for a new era of investments and continued support to lift up the economy and make sure that whatever arrangements happen they are done openly, transparently and making sure that the benefits are felt directly by all the Lebanese people."

On Wednesday, (October 26) U.S. President Joe Biden branded the accord a "historic breakthrough".

An offshore energy discovery -- while not enough on its own to resolve Lebanon's deep economic problems -- would be a major win.

It would provide much-needed hard currency and could ease crippling blackouts one day.

While Lebanon and Israel have both voiced satisfaction with having settled a dispute peacefully, prospects for a wider diplomatic breakthrough appear remote.

With Aoun saying in a statement that the deal "has no political dimensions or impacts that contradict Lebanon's foreign policy".