NAQOURA, Lebanon — Lebanon and Israel started direct talks on Wednesday over their disputed maritime border, together with American officials mediating the talks which both sides insist are strictly technical rather than an indication of any normalization of ties.
The U.S. was mediating the problem for about a decade, but just before this month was a breakthrough achieved an arrangement to get a frame for U.S.-mediated talks.
The evolution comes against the background of Lebanon’s spiraling economic crisis, the worst in its contemporary history, and observing a tide of U.S. sanctions that lately included two powerful former Cabinet ministers allied with the militant Hezbollah group. Israel, the USA, in addition to other Western and Western nations, think about the Iran-allied Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Beirut expects that gas and oil discoveries within its territorial waters can allow it to overcome the catastrophe and repay its large debt which stands at 170 percent of their GDP, which makes it among the greatest on earth.
Israel has developed a natural gas sector elsewhere in its economic oceans, making enough gas for domestic consumption and also to export to neighboring Egypt and Jordan.
The U.S.-mediated talks started at a U.N. place across the boundary Called Ras Naqoura, on the edge of the border town of Naqoura. The Lebanese delegation will talk through U.N. and U.S. officials into the Israelis.
Wednesday’s discussions took place in an outside setting due to the coronavirus. Lebanon and Israel have been struck hard by the virus, and the two have reported tens of thousands of new instances lately.
Afterward, the local press in Beirut reported that the delegation refused to look at a combined photograph with the Israeli group and also the U.S. and U.N. officials. A photograph released following the meeting revealed the U.S. and U.N. officials with no Lebanese or the Israelis.
Lebanon’s state news agency said Wednesday’s session finished around noon and the next semester will be held on Oct. 28.
The Lebanese delegation led back to Beirut immediately following the semester and didn’t attend a dinner hosted by U.N. officials. The Israeli delegation did not participate in the lunch, as reported by a U.N. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk about the talks.
Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and therefore are in a state of warfare. They every maintain about 860 square km (330 square kilometers ) of the Mediterranean Sea as being in their private economic zones.
A joint statement published by the U.S. State Department and Jan Kubis, the U.N. special planner for Lebanon, stated the two teams” held productive discussions and reaffirmed their commitment to keeping discussions later this month”
The head of the Lebanese delegation, Brig. Gen. Bassam Yassinsaid that it had been”the very first measure of a thousand-mile journey,” according to a text published that the Lebanese military.
A statement from the Israeli delegation stated the sides discussed Wednesday that the”procedures for continuing the talks and establish the agenda for future discussions.” The group members reported back to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who declared they continue with the discussions in the forthcoming weeks.
“We don’t have any regrets. “Our goal is quite tight and tight and therefore hopefully viable.”
Lebanon, which started overseas drilling earlier this season and expects to begin drilling for gas in the contested region in the forthcoming months, has split its expanse of oceans into 10 blocs, where three have been in the region under dispute with Israel.
The team had fulfilled Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun on Tuesday, who worried the discussions”are specialized discussions that just cope with marking the marine boundary.”
Hezbollah said last week that the talks don’t signify a reconciliation with Israel. Its bloc in parliament stated that defining the boundary of”national sovereignty” is the duty of the Lebanese state.
Historical Wednesday, Hezbollah and its Shiite ally, the Amal set of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, published a joint statement expressing reservations the Lebanese team comprises civilians and called for its delegation to be reformed so that it just involves members of the army.
Ras Naqoura currently hosts yearly tripartite, indirect Israel-Lebanon meetings over offenses along the land boundary.
Israel and Lebanon also held direct discussions from the 1990s, when Arab nations and Israel functioned on peace arrangements.