Lebanon, Israel to hold US-brokered border talks

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COURTESY BY: https://www.dawn.com/

BEIRUT: Lebanon and Israel said on Thursday they would hold US-brokered negotiations on their disputed land and maritime borders, in what Washington hailed as a “historic” agreement between two sides technically still at war.

The United States will act as a facilitator during the UN-backed talks to be held in the southern Lebanon border town of Naqoura, Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told a news conference in Beirut, without giving a date.

US envoy David Schenker said the negotiations would start in the week of Oct 12.

In Israel, Energy Minister Youval Steinitz said in a statement that there would be “direct negotiations”.

According to Israel, bilateral negotiations with Lebanon have been suspended since 1994.

But an adviser to Berri, Ali Hamdan, said the talks would be “indirect”.

“They will sit in the same room, but there will be no direct conversation between both sides. It will rather be via the UN team,” he said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed what he called a “historic” agreement between the two countries to discuss their disputed borders, a “result of nearly three years of intense diplomatic engagement”.

Berri said a framework agreement had been reached to start the negotiations, and read out a Sept 22 copy of it.

The United States was asked “by both sides, Israel and Lebanon, to act as a mediator and facilitator to draw up the maritime border, and it is ready to do this”, he quoted it as saying.

Blue Line up for discussion

“On the issue of the maritime border, continuous talks will be held at the UN headquarters in Naqoura under UN sponsorship,” Berri said.

“The US representatives and the US special coordinator for Lebanon are prepared to provide meeting minutes together that they will sign and present to Israel and Lebanon to sign at the end of each meeting,” he added.

Talks would also address disputed areas along the Blue Line, a UN-drawn land border between the two countries established in 2000 after Israeli troops withdrew from southern Lebanon.

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