NAQOURA, Lebanon: Negotiations between Lebanon and Israel, mediated by the U.S., over the disputed maritime border have ended five and a half hours after they began Tuesday morning at the headquarters of UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon, security sources said.
There has so far been no official statement from the involved parties regarding the progress of the meeting, nor when the next round of talks could be scheduled.
A US mediation team, led by John Desrocher, had arrived in Beirut Monday and was at the talks. The Lebanese delegation will speak through UN and US officials to the Israelis.
Negotiations between Lebanon and Israel began in October to try to resolve the dispute which has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area, but the talks stalled and the negotiations were paused in early December.
The countries held four rounds of talks hosted by the United Nations at a peacekeepers base in Ras Naquora, the culmination of nearly a decade of diplomacy by the United States.
The resumption comes after a new US administration took over. Lebanon has sunk deeper into its economic and financial crisis that started in late 2019 - a culmination of decades of corruption and mismanagement by the political class.
Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers of the Mediterranean Sea as being within 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 pushes for an additional 1,430 square kilometers for Lebanon.
Lebanon’s leadership is not united behind the Army Command’s decision regarding the extended area.
Israel has already developed a natural gas industry elsewhere in its economic waters, producing enough gas for domestic consumption and to 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 expanse of waters into 10 blocks, of which three are in the area under dispute with Israel.
Ras Naqoura already hosts monthly tripartite, indirect Israel-Lebanon meetings over violations along the land border.
Israel and Lebanon also held indirect negotiations in the 1990s, when Arab states and Israel worked on peace agreements. The Palestinians and Jordan signed agreements with Israel at the time but Lebanon and Syria did not.
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