REPORT: US-Brokered Talks Between Israel and Lebanon Close to Conclusion
A report on Debka File, an English-language Israeli military intelligence website, reported that US-brokered talks between Israel and the Lebanese government focusing on two main issues, borders and rights to offshore gas fields, are moving towards a resolution.
The talks being held at the UN camp in Naqura on the Lebanon-Israeli border have reportedly concluded the border dispute, settling on demarcation established in 2011 and referred to as the Blue Line.
The more difficult issue that has yet to be resolved concerns the demarcation of maritime borders concerning. Negotiations, which began in 2019, are being delayed to the absence of a Lebanese government. The entire government last month in the wake of a catastrophic explosion in Beirut Harbor which many blamed on the government. The situation is further exacerbated by interfactional disputes over how to reinstate the government with Hezbollah playing a major role.
In August, Speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri disclosed that the US-brokered talks over the maritime borders with Israel were nearing conclusion. This was confirmed recently by US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker who announced that Lebanon and Israel are “getting closer” to a framework deal on the demarcation of maritime borders, more specifically 856-square kilometers of energy-rich east Mediterranean Sea. . An agreement would allow Lebanon to start exploiting its offshore gas and oil reserves, an essential asset for the economically beleaguered country. Recent tests have found between possibly four new gas fields larger than Israel’s appropriately named Leviathan natural gas field in the same area of the Mediterranean.
The main focus of the talks is Block 9, a gas field located on the border between the two countries.
We spent a year shuttling back and forth between Lebanon and Israel to try and get what is actually only a framework agreement, that is, an agreement which provides the framework for actually starting to negotiate on the borders.”
The US official continued: “I think that this framework is important, but this should have been completed a long time ago. I’m not going to get into the details on what’s holding it up, but I hope to be able to come over to Lebanon and then sign this agreement in the coming weeks.”
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