Lebanon names delegation to Israel maritime border talks
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has named the members of the delegation that will negotiate with Israel over maritime borders, while the UN has decided on the format of the negotiations, the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The maritime border negotiations, the first of their kind between Israel and Lebanon, will take place next week in the border town of Naqoura and will be mediated by the UN and the United States.
The Lebanese negotiating team will be made up of military officials and technical specialists. Among the negotiators will be Brigadier-General Bassam Yassin, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Lebanese Army for Operations, and Wisam Shbat, the head of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration.
Aoun will reportedly meet with the negotiating team in the coming days for consultations, according to Al-Akhbar.
On Tuesday, the United Nations said that the Lebanese and Israeli negotiators will meet in the same room in Naqoura, but they will not speak with each other. Instead, UN mediators will pass on messages.
This contradicts an earlier statement from Israeli Energy Minister Youval Steinitz.
This is the same negotiating format that has been used in UNIFIL-mediated negotiations between the Lebanese and Israeli armies.
Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war, and Israel occasionally launches airstrikes against the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.
In August, however, President Michel Aoun said that Lebanon was "open" to peace negotiations.
The issue of the maritime border is particularly sensitive due to the possible presence of hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean.
In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for off-shore drilling in two blocks in the Mediterranean for oil and gas with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek.