Lebanon, Israel held "productive" border talks: USA and United Nations statement

Lebanon, Israel held

United States officials mediated in the negotiations, which took place at the base of a UN peacekeeping force in the Lebanese town of Naqoura.

The absence of such a detail in the framework agreement suggests the talks are merely for political positioning, he said.

Disagreement over the sea border had discouraged oil and gas exploration near the disputed line.

David Schenker, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and U.S. Ambassador John Desrocher attended the meeting and served as mediators.

Israel has said that there will be "direct negotiations", something Lebanese officials have denied.

It is expected the two delegations will be sitting in the same hall.

The Israeli delegation was headed by Udi Adiri, Director General of the Ministry of Energy.

Lebanon's four-member delegation was comprised of two army officers, an official and a maritime border law expert.

A secret group operating in Lebanon that identifies itself as the "Freedom Movement" is claiming it has captured two members of Israel's worldwide Mossad espionage organization.

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Both sides insist the talks are purely technical and not a sign of any normalization or ties.

It had appeared that the start of the talks might be delayed on Tuesday night, after the militant Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006, and its ally, the Amal movement, condemned the inclusion of civilians in the Lebanese delegation. He added that if Lebanon's economy collapses, "there is no interest in making concessions".

The development comes against the backdrop of Lebanon's spiraling economic crisis, the worst in its modern history, and following a wave of USA sanctions that recently included two influential former Cabinet ministers allied with the militant Hezbollah group.

In 2018, Lebanon granted license to three global energy companies - Eni, Total and Novatek - to carry out offshore exploration in two blocks.

Lebanon and Israel each claim about 860 square kilometres of the Mediterranean Sea as being within their own exclusive economic zones. Gen. Bassam Yassin, said in a statement that he hopes the talks will resolve the dispute within "a reasonable time".

An Israeli energy ministry source told AFP news agency: "We have no illusions". A statement by the Israeli delegation said the sides discussed Wednesday the "processes for continuing the discussions and set the agenda for future talks". Hezbollah has also reiterated this stance.

A pro-Hezbollah newspaper referred to the negotiations as "a moment of unprecedented political weakness for Lebanon". Lebanon has split its expanse of oceans into 10 blocs, where three are at the region below dispute with Israel.

Unlike land borders, the maritime frontiers have not seen any military clashes.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the negotiations will be held at the United Nations headquarters in the southern Naqoura city on Wednesday.

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