Lebanon, Israel to resume maritime border talks May 4

Lebanon and Israel will resume US-mediated talks on their disputed maritime border on May 4, the US State Department said Friday.

“The resumption of talks is a positive step toward a long-awaited resolution,” the State Department said in a statement.

It said the US mediation team led by Ambassador John Desrocher will travel to Lebanon May 3 to “mediate talks between representatives from the governments of Israel and Lebanon on the disputed maritime boundary beginning May 4.”

“The resumption of talks is a positive step toward a long-awaited resolution,” the statement added.

Lebanon and Israel held several rounds of talks in October and November last year, a culmination of three years of diplomacy by the United States, hosted by the United Nations at the Naqoura peacekeeper base in southern Lebanon.

But gaps between the two sides remained large after each presented contrasting maps outlining proposed borders.

Lebanon demanded during the negotiation sessions an additional area of 1,430 square km that includes part of the Israeli Karish gas field in which the Greek Energean PLC operates.

Since the talks stalled, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister and ministers of defense and public works approved a draft decree which would expand Lebanon’s claim, adding around 1,400 square km to its exclusive economic zone. The draft decree has yet to be approved by President Michel Aoun.

The Lebanese Army Command, which demarcated the maritime border, said the negotiating delegation continued to perform its task in the indirect technical negotiations based on the study prepared by the Army Command and based on “scientific and legal bases in accordance with the evidence and studies prepared by the Hydrographic Office in the Army Command.” The Army Command stressed its commitment and “adherence to the announced proposal, which is Line 29, which is scientifically and legally proven and with evidence.”

Israel already pumps gas from huge offshore fields, while Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.

Source: Daily Star