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Beirut/Tel Aviv
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Tuesday that maritime border talks with Israel will tackle “technical issues only,” indicating it is not a step toward a normalisation of ties.
“The negotiations will be technical and talks should be limited to this particular issue only,” Aoun was quoted as saying by his office on the eve of the discussions. He held separate meetings on Tuesday with the Lebanese delegation tasked with holding border talks with Israel, and with the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis.
Israel and Lebanon are officially at war and there are recurring tensions along the border between the Israeli army and members of the Hezbollah movement.
The maritime dispute between the two countries stems from demarcation methods, concerning about 856 square kilometres of waters. The issue grew following natural gas discoveries in the Mediterranean Sea, as both countries claim gas deposits there for themselves.  Aoun said “a fair solution must be reached to protect the sovereign rights of Lebanese.”  The meetings are due to be held at the UN office in Naqoura in southern Lebanon.
A senior source in the Israeli Energy Ministry said on Tuesday that the talks will be held between the two sides under US mediation.
“I want to be crystal clear about it,” the source said. “It’s not to establish some kind of peace process or normalisation.” He said the “defined and limited” goal of the talks is to resolve the maritime dispute.
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