Israel and Lebanon completed a second round of talks over their disputed maritime border on Thursday and agreed to another round in November.The two countries agreed at the beginning of October to hold negotiations on the issue in the first direct talks between them in 30 years.
The U.S.-brokered talks were held at a base in southern Lebanon run by theUnited Nations Interim Force in Lebanon with the participation of American mediator John Desrocher. The Israeli side was headed by Uri Adiri, director-general of the Energy Ministry, and also included a diplomatic adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, top officials in the Foreign Ministry and military, and an expert on borders who previously worked as director-general of the Housing Ministry’s department of mapping.
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The meetings are the culmination of three years of diplomacy by Washington, and follow a series of deals under which three Arab nations– the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan– agreed to establish full relations with Israel.
Lebanon has said its talks are strictly limited to their disputed boundary, which lies in an area of potentially gas-rich Mediterranean water.
On Wednesday, the two sides presented contrasting maps outlining proposed borders that actually increased the size of the disputed area, sources said.
The Lebanese proposal extended farther south than the border Lebanon previously presented to the United Nations, according to a Lebanese security source. The Israeli map pushed the boundary farther north than Israel’s original position, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
“Representatives from the governments of Israel and Lebanon held productive talks mediated by the United States and hosted by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon,” the joint U.S.-UN statement said. “The parties committed to continue negotiations next month.”
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A senior Lebanese source said the two sides would meet again on November 11.