Lebanon, Israel end third round of sea border talks

Naqura, Lebanon, Nov 11 (AFP/APP):Lebanon and Israel, still technically at war, wrapped up a third round of maritime border talks Wednesday under US and UN auspices to allow for offshore hydrocarbon exploration.

The indirect talks mediated by the United States lasted for several hours at a base of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the Lebanese border town of Naqura.

A joint US-UN statement said the talks had been “productive”.

The United States and the office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon “remain hopeful that these negotiations will lead to a long-awaited resolution,” it said.

Lebanon’s National News Agency said both sides would reconvene on December 2.

After years of quiet US shuttle diplomacy, Lebanon and Israel in early October said they had agreed to begin the negotiations in what Washington hailed as a “historic” agreement.

The first two rounds of talks were held on October 14 and 28-29.

The negotiations are meant to focus on a 860-square-kilometre (330-square-mile) disputed sea area according to a map registered with the United Nations in 2011.

But Lebanon has now demanded an additional area of 1,430 square kilometres further south, Lebanese energy expert Laury Haytayan said, characterising the new phase of talks as a “war of the maps”.

She said the additional area extends into part of the Karish gas field which Israel has assigned to Greek firm Energean for exploration.

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