Lebanese President Michel Aoun declared on Wednesday that his country was prepared to restart indirect negotiations with Israel over the two countries’ maritime borders.

According to Israel’s Kan news, Israel responded to the announcement by saying that “for us, the negotiations have never been stopped. But Lebanon must stop raising new demands.”

Aoun’s comments on restarting negotiations regarding the demarcation of international boundaries on the Mediterranean Sea were made to the U.N. mission in Lebanon, according to I24.

Aoun stressed that the drafting of these borders must be done “in a way that preserves Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

The report noted that American mediator Amos Hochstein will meet in Israel next week with Energy Minister Karine Elharrar.

Discussions could open up access to potentially lucrative natural-gas reserves that Lebanon seeks to tap as the country endures a devastating economic crisis the World Bank calls one of the worst in a century, it added.

The United States is organizing the indirect talks.

“Hochstein reportedly told both sides that he will give up on seeking a resolution to the dispute if a deal is not reached by the March parliamentary elections,” said the report.

JNS

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