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Lebanon, Israel Hold 2nd Round of Sea Border Talks

Lebanon, Israel Hold 2nd Round of Sea Border Talks

Wednesday, 28 October, 2020 - 09:30
UN peacekeeping military vehicles enter the headquarters of UNIFIL in Naqoura, Lebanon, Wednesday, October 14, 2020. AP

Israel and Lebanon on Wednesday held a second round of US-mediated talks over their disputed sea border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area, though sources said gaps between the sides remain large.

Delegations from the long-time foes reconvened at a UN peacekeeper base to try to reach agreement over their maritime border after an initial meeting earlier this month.

The sides presented contrasting maps on Wednesday outlining proposed borders that actually increased the size of the disputed area, sources said.

The Lebanese proposal, which had been carried by local media for days prior to the talks, extended farther south than the border Lebanon had years before presented to the United Nations, according to a Lebanese security source.

The Israeli team presented its own map that pushed the boundary farther north than Israel’s original position, according to a source familiar with what was discussed.

The teams will meet again on Thursday to continue negotiating.

The US-mediated talks follow three years of diplomacy by Washington. They also come after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to establish full relations with Israel, under US-brokered deals.

Lebanon insists that the negotiations are purely technical and don't involve any soft political normalization with Israel.

Lebanon is looking to settle the maritime border dispute so it can press on with its offshore quest for oil and gas.

In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for drilling in two blocks in the Mediterranean with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek.

Exploration of block 9 is more controversial as part of it is located in an 860-square-kilometer area claimed by both Israel and Lebanon.

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