Maritime dispute talks postponed
(3 December 2020)
Talks between Israel and Lebanon, due to take place this week to discuss the ongoing maritime dispute between the two states, have now been postponed according to sources.
U.S. Mediators will now contact the two parties separately.
The negotiations commenced in October 2020 at a U.N. base in southern Lebanon. Negotiators were seeking to resolve a disputed maritime border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said it had been agreed with the Americans that talks would be postponed for a few weeks. Steinitz commented last week that there had been no breakthrough after four rounds of talks and that Lebanon had “so far presented positions which add up to a provocation.” He said he hoped a breakthrough could be reached in a few months but that he expected “many more hurdles and bust-ups.”
A Lebanese source said the reason for the delay was Israel’s rejection of Lebanese proposals.
Israel and Lebanon are negotiating for an area of resource-rich sea based on a map registered with the United Nations in 2011, which shows an 860-square-kilometre (330-square-mile) patch of sea as being disputed. But Lebanon considers that map to have been based on wrong estimates and now demands an additional 1,430 square kilometres (552 square miles) of sea further south, which includes part of Israel’s Karish gas field.
Steinitz said Lebanon had now changed its position seven times and was contradicting its own assertions, and that this was requiring that further talks be postponed to a later date.