BEIRUT: Lebanon is still steadfast in demarcating both its maritime and land borders with Israel simultaneously, as Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield gains ground in the negotiation process.
Following his meeting with Israeli officials over the weekend, Satterfield was expected to convey those messages to their Lebanese counterparts Monday in Beirut, who have relied on the US official to mediate in indirect negotiations between the two countries over their disputed maritime border.
The meeting was postponed, however, according to sources familiar with the negotiations process. Yet this development is not indicative of the emergence of complications, sources say, with Satterfield expected to return to Beirut shortly.
Israel had first attempted to include a timeframe for talks, to be concluded within six months, which was rejected by Lebanon. Lebanon also sought to make sure that Hezbollah’s arms would not be linked to the demarcation file.
Two reports published in Israel confirmed the positive atmosphere surrounding the talks to demarcate the disputed maritime border, which is believed to hold natural gas fields.
Israeli media also reported that direct negotiations, in the presence of Satterfield and a representative from the United Nations, are expected to begin next month at the UN headquarters in Naqoura.
Meanwhile, Syria has also expressed intent in undergoing separate demarcations of its land and maritime borders with Lebanon, complicating matters further.
Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab reiterated the need to find a solution to the demarcation of Lebanese-Syrian borders, in comments published by Russian outlet Sputnik News.
"We have information that Syria wants to demarcate the maritime border with Lebanon, and Russia, given its presence in the region, might have an economic interest in helping," he said, adding that Russia's Novatech petroleum firm has already begun work to extract gas from Lebanon's blocks and "might have a role in the blocks located in Syria."
A consortium comprised of energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek won licenses to explore blocks 4 and 9 of Lebanon's Exclusive Economic Zone. Part of block 9 falls in the disputed maritime zone by Israel which is technically still at war with Lebanon.
The major point of discussion in the demarcation of the land border is point B1 in Ras Al-Naqoura. Defining point B1 will have implications on the demarcation of Lebanon's EEZ.
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