Israel and Lebanon hold First Talks on Maritime Border Dispute
Israel and Lebanon, embroiled in a long-running maritime border dispute, have for the first time launched the first round of talks on the issue. The mediation was co-sponsored by the United States, and both sides insisted that the talks were not about normalizing relations between the two sides and were not part of an agreement reached between the Arab states and Israel that began two months ago.
The first round of talks is underway at the base of UN peace keeping force in the Naqoura city of Lubnan. The negotiations will be facilitated by US Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs David Schenker and US Ambassador to Algeria John Desrocher. The meeting lasted only an hour, but both sides agreed to meet again on October 28. Officials from both sides said they were setting the stage for further talks, to plan for the upcoming meetings. U.S. official said the two sides had held fruitful talks and agreed to continue talks next month.
The maritime dispute between the two sides began in 2011 when Israel ratified the maritime border agreement with neighboring Cyprus as a reference to the Lebanese-Cyprus maritime agreement reached in 2007, but the Lebanese parliament never ratified it and rejected it. Lebanon later told the United Nations in 2011 that it had added 860 square kilometers (332 square miles) south of the 2007 line and Israel disagreed that.
However it appeared that the start of talks could be delayed until Tuesday night, after the radical Shiite Islamist movement Hezbollah, which has always opposed Israel, condemned the talks. Israel is believed to want to build a pipeline to Greek to export gas to Europe. However, before an agreement can be made it is necessary to agree on the boundaries of the economic exclusion zone.