Tel-Aviv and Beirut Expected to Engage in US-Mediated Talks
“They said that yes, they are prepared to sit and solve the dispute but there are still the terms (to be agreed).”
Israeli Channel 13 News reported this week that Israel and Lebanon will likely engage in U.S.-mediated talks over the demarcation of maritime borders between the two countries. The talks would represent a major diplomatic achievement in a long-held dispute.
Formally at war since 1948, when Israel took over two-thirds of neighboring Palestine, Israel and Lebanon have been in dispute over territorial waters in the eastern Mediterranean. Over the past decade, the dispute grew in prominence after natural gas fields were discovered in the eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking to the Channel 13 News, Israeli Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz, said that hopefully, the talks will begin next month.
“I hope that in the next month, during this summer, that we will begin negotiations,” Steinitz told Israeli Channel Reshet 13. “They said that yes, they are prepared to sit and solve the dispute but there are still the terms (to be agreed).”
He added that once both countries begin such talks, international, Israeli and Lebanese energy companies could start carrying out seismological survey operations off the disputed waters. The Israeli minister expected to sign an agreement in a period of six to nine months.
According to Israel Hayom, United States envoy, David Satterfield, was dispatched to both Lebanon and Israel to work on the territorial disputes. However, Washington has not yet set a date for the beginning of the talks between the two sides. Washington has said it would help both sides to reach a solution for the long-held dispute.
Israel Hayom also reported that Lebanese lawmakers quoted the Lebanese speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri, as saying that progress has been made in the territorial dispute and that efforts to resolve the dispute are underway.
Israel is reportedly offering 19 offshore blocks for exploration of natural gas, but so far areas close to the disputed maritime borders are excluded.
Back in the summer of 2006, Israel carried out a large-scale attack on southern Lebanon in a crackdown on the armed Hezbollah Islamist Lebanese party. The attack came six years after Israel unilaterally withdrew from southern Lebanon, following 22 years of Israeli military occupation of the area.