(November 30, 2020 / JNS) Maritime border talks between Israel and Lebanon have been postponed, though the two sides will continue to hold discussions with U.S. mediators separately, Israeli and Lebanese officials said on Monday.
A Lebanese security source said the cause of the delay was Israel’s rejection of the Lebanese position, Reuters reported. Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday that it had been agreed with the United States that the negotiations would be delayed for a few weeks, according to the report.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first announced the parties’ agreement to a “common framework for maritime discussions” on Oct. 1. The talks—the first meaningful negotiations between Jerusalem and Beirut in 30 years—got underway in Naqoura, Lebanon, on Oct. 14 under the flag of the United Nations and hosted by the staff from the Office of the U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon.
The focus of the negotiations is a disputed 330-square mile area straddling the maritime border region in the Eastern Mediterranean, rich with natural-gas fields. Both states claim that the area concerned falls within their respective exclusive economic zones and continental shelves, theoretical 200-nautical-mile zones within which, pursuant to the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), coastal states enjoy exclusive rights to exploit and benefit from natural resources.
However, the talks seemed to reach an impasse last week, with Steinitz and Lebanese President Michel Aoun trading accusations. Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Lebanon had “changed its mind seven times” regarding the origins of the prospective border, warning that Lebanon’s inflexibility would end the negotiations.
“Its current position contradicts not only its previous stance but also Syria’s position on the matter,” he said. Aoun called the claims “baseless,” saying that “Lebanon’s position on the matter stands.”
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