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Lebanon: Framework Agreed for Talks with Israel over Border Dispute

Lebanon: Framework Agreed for Talks with Israel over Border Dispute

Thursday, 1 October, 2020 - 12:15
Oil drilling ship Tungsten Explorer is seen docked at the block 4 area off the coast of the Lebanese coastal town of Safra, on February 25, 2020. (AFP)

Lebanon's parliament speaker said in a news conference on Thursday that a framework had been agreed for talks with Israel to end a long-running border dispute between the two nations that are formally at war.

Nabih Berri, who said the army would lead the Lebanese team, told a news conference negotiations would be held in south Lebanon near the border.

He also said the talks will take place under the auspices of the United Nations, adding that the US will push for a deal as soon as possible.

Once the agreement is reached it will be signed by Lebanon, Israel and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Reuters reported.

UNIFIL welcomed the agreement saying it stands ready “to extend to the parties all the support at its disposal and facilitate efforts towards a resolution.”

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun also welcomed the agreement saying he hopes "that the American side will continue its role as a fair mediator.”

Aoun said he will be closely supervising the talks starting with the formation of the team and throughout the negotiations.

According to Berri, both Lebanon and Israel have asked the US to act as mediator to demarcate the borders.

He further stressed that the agreement to resolve the dispute was in place before Washington imposed sanctions on Lebanese politicians, including Berri's aide.

The talks are expected to begin on Oct. 14, according to US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, the top US diplomat for the Middle East.

Schenker said he will lead the US mediation team for at least the first round. He would not specify exactly who would be representing the Israelis or the Lebanese adding that the talks are strictly about maritime issues and delineating a border.

Beirut has an unresolved maritime border dispute with Israel over a sea area of about 860 square kilometers extending along the edge of three of Lebanon’s southern energy blocks.

Lebanon last year licensed a consortium of Italy’s Eni, France’s Total and Russia’s Novatek to carry out the country’s first offshore energy exploration in two blocks. One of the blocks, Block 9, contains waters disputed with Israel.

There is also disagreement between the two countries over a border wall that Israel is building. The Israeli army has previously said the construction work is being done on sovereign Israeli territory.

However, Lebanese government says the wall passes through territory that belongs to Lebanon but which is located on the Israeli side of the UN-designated Blue Line, which demarcated Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

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