NAQOURA, Lebanon (AP) – After a hiatus of nearly six months, Lebanon and Israel resumed indirect talks with US mediation on their disputed maritime border on Tuesday.
The recovery comes after the arrival of a new US administration. Lebanon sank deeper into the economic and financial crisis that began in late 2019 – the culmination of decades of corruption and mismanagement by the political class.
The small Mediterranean country is eager to resolve the border dispute with Israel, paving the way for potential lucrative oil and gas deals.
Local media said talks resumed at a UN post along the border known as Ras Naqoura, on the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Naqoura. The Lebanese delegation will address the Israelis through representatives of the United Nations and the United States.
US Ambassador John Deschent, who serves as US mediator, arrived in Beirut on Monday evening to participate in the talks.
The United States has mediated on the issue for about a decade, but it wasn’t until late last year that a breakthrough was reached on an agreement for a framework for state-mediated negotiations. -United. Talks began in October but ended a few weeks later.
Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically at war. They each claim around 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as part of their own exclusive economic zones.
In the second round of talks, the Lebanese delegation – a mix of army officers and experts – offered a new map that grows an additional 1,430 square kilometers (550 square miles) for Lebanon.
Lebanese leaders are not united behind the army command’s decision to expand the area.
“There is a weakness in the Lebanese position and it is important that the Israelis join the talks when Lebanon is in a weak position,” said Laury Haytayan, a Lebanese oil and gas expert.
Israel has already developed a natural gas industry elsewhere in its economic waters, producing enough gas for domestic consumption and for export to Egypt and Jordan.
Lebanon, which began offshore drilling earlier this year and hopes to start drilling for gas in the disputed area in the coming months, has divided its body of water into 10 blocks, three of which are in the area. dispute with Israel.
Ras Naqoura already hosts monthly indirect Israel-Lebanon tripartite meetings on violations along the land border.
Israel and Lebanon also conducted indirect negotiations in the 1990s, when the Arab states and Israel worked on peace accords. The Palestinians and Jordan signed agreements with Israel at the time, but not Lebanon and Syria.