The maritime demarcation negotiations between Lebanon and Israeli reportedly jumped back to the forefront once the head of the US delegation sponsoring the Naqoura talks, American Ambassador John Desrocher, arrived in Beirut yesterday afternoon, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday.
According to circles informed on Desrocher’s visit, the latter is expected to visit President Michel Aoun on Monday, before meeting with the head and members of the Lebanese delegation participating in the talks in Yarze, said the daily.
Sources familiar with Lebanon’s position said the delegation is ready to discuss any new proposal based on the internationally-recognized law of the sea, while recognizing the demarcation line
Lebanon, witnessing the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, is eager to resolve the border dispute with Israel, paving the way for potential lucrative oil and gas deals.
The U.S. has been mediating the issue for about a decade, but only late last year was a breakthrough reached on an agreement for a framework for U.S.-mediated talks. The talks began in October but stopped a few weeks later.
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 civilian 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 already has 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 blocs, 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.