Lebanon: ‘90 percent’ of maritime border negotiation conditions settled

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said in late July that most of the ground rules had been set for negotiations on the southern maritime border dispute with Israel, thereby rekindling hopes of a resolution to the issue after reports that talks had stalled.

Berri was quoted as telling MPs that positive progress on the matter had left only one area of disagreement: whether talks, if held, would include the delineation of both the land and maritime borders between the two countries, or just the maritime border.

Lebanon has sought to have both issues negotiated at the same time, while Israel has reportedly opposed this.

Lebanese officials have also insisted on high-level United Nations participation in any talks held.They have additionally called for negotiations to be open-ended, rather than limited to a 6-month period, and have asked that any agreements to be written, rather than verbal.

Despite differences, both sides are keen to come to the table as they seek to explore for hydrocarbons. Lebanon’s first ever exploratory drilling is scheduled for the end of 2019, and Beirut seeks to drill in southern Block 9, which includes a small sliver of disputed territory, next year. 

The maritime dispute centers on 856 square kilometers of sea area, while 13 points are disputed on the UN-designated Blue Line, which marks Israel’s 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon after 16 years of occupation.