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World

Israel, Lebanon in indirect talks over maritime dispute

  • On Wednesday, Lebanon and Israel held a short opening round of talks over their disputed maritime border, which were held at the headquarters of the United Nations’ peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura.
Updated 14 Oct 2020

NAQOURA, LEBANON: On Wednesday, Lebanon and Israel held a short opening round of talks over their disputed maritime border, which were held at the headquarters of the United Nations’ peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura. Both parties claim approximately 860 kilometers (or 330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as a part of their own Exclusive Economic Zones.

The talks were mediated by U.S officials, with both sides insisting that the negotiations were being held on purely technical grounds, and is not indicative of any normalisation of ties, although both delegations have suggested that the maritime border dispute can be resolved within a reasonable time frame. The U.S Department of State has confirmed in a statement that "during this initial meeting, the representatives held productive talks and reaffirmed their commitment to continue negotiations later this month".

In a statement after the first round of talks, Lebanese Brigadier General Bassam Yassin mentioned that the talks mark “a first step in the thousand-mile march towards demarcation”, and that “based on the higher interests of our country, we are looking to achieve a pace of negotiations that would allow us to conclude this dossier within reasonable time.”

In the midst of a spiralling economic crisis in Lebanon, the worst in the country’s history, and a wave of sanctions from the United States, these negotiations are the first in nearly three decades, which mark a significant achievement of both adversarial nations engaging in indirect negotiations. However, these talks have received blistering criticism from the more conservative factions in Lebanese society, as both countries have no formal diplomatic relations, and are technically in a state of war.

Both parties are expected to reconvene on the 28th of October.