Progress slows on southern border negotiations

Progress has slowed on US-mediated negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over a border dispute between both countries, with conflicting reports that talks are either stalled, or could be going ahead in the next month.

Israel in May had reportedly agreed to a set of Lebanese conditions, including a demand to negotiate disputed land and sea borders at the same time, and to hold talks under UN auspices at the southernmost point of Naqoura.

Lebanon had also sought talks to be open ended, rather than having them limited to a 6-month period, which Israel had preferred. While reports suggest Israel agreed to this condition, it appears to want to negotiate the land and sea borders separately.

In a sign of frustration, Speaker Nabih Berri, who has presided over the Lebanese demarcation effort, said in mid-June that “the Israeli enemy is attempting, in all forms, to evade the things we [previously] agreed to.”

His comments came after a meeting with David Satterfield, the U.S. envoy mediating the dispute  between the two countries.

But despite Berri’s less-than-optimistic tone, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steintiz said a few days later that he expected negotiations to begin in earnest in July. 

“I hope that in the next month, during this summer, that we will begin negotiations,” Steinitz said.  “They [Lebanon] said that yes, they are prepared to sit and solve the dispute but there are still the terms (to be agreed).”

For an explainer on the origins of southern dispute, click here.


Photo taken from: The Daily Star website 

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