Lebanon receives Israeli response to border demarcation

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BEIRUT: David Satterfield, deputy US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, conveyed Israel’s response to Lebanon regarding negotiations on border demarcation.

Sources at the Lebanese prime minister’s office said negotiations will focus on demarcating the maritime border, and will also tackle disputed points on the Blue Line, a border demarcation published by the UN in June 2000 to determine whether Israel had fully withdrawn from Lebanon. There are 13 disputed points on the Blue Line.

Lebanese Foreign Ministry sources said after Satterfield’s meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil that the atmosphere was “positive.”

They added that the final touches were being put on the form of negotiations and the role of concerned parties, including the UN, Lebanon, Israel and the US. Satterfield also met with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Lebanon’s presidential media office said President Michel Aoun on Monday discussed with Jan Kubis, the UN special coordinator in Lebanon, the UN’s role “in helping to demarcate the southern Lebanese border.”

Lebanon delivered a proposal to Satterfield stressing its “determination to demarcate the maritime border through the tripartite commission originally formed in April 1996, as was done for the Blue Line after liberation in 2000, which is to be completed by a White Line in the sea.”

Beirut said it rejected “any direct Israeli-Lebanese negotiations,” and “demanded negotiations involving officers from Lebanon, Israel and the United Nations, with the participation of topographic and oil experts. The function of the tripartite committee is to demarcate the maritime line. There is no objection to the participation of American diplomats in the tripartite demarcation, provided that they are neutral.”

The head of the union of workers in the gas and exploration sector in Lebanon, Maroun Al-Khouli, said: “Solving this problem with Israel will establish a significant renaissance in Lebanon’s investment in its oil resources in the maritime economic zone, especially as Lebanon is preparing to begin drilling for oil and gas in blocks 4 and 9 in its territorial waters.”

He added: “This will also help large companies, including American companies, to enter the field of exploration in the second licensing cycle, which will be launched later.”

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