Lebanon says US mediation on Israel border issue ‘viable’

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Thursday that he is open to future negotiations under US mediation to resolve his country’s border disputes with Israel.

After a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Hariri said he had “confirmed” Beirut’s “commitment” to “continuing the negotiation process” launched by the US government on “land and maritime borders.”

“We consider the process to be viable,” he told reporters, promising a “final decision in the coming months — hopefully September.”

Standing by Hariri’s side for brief remarks to the press, Pompeo welcomed the Lebanese prime minister’s “commitment to make progress towards the resumption of productive expert-level discussions.”

Those discussions should cover “the handful of remaining points with respect to the ‘blue line'” — a demarcation line drawn by the United Nations to mark Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

Also on the table will be “the initiation of discussions on the Israel-Lebanon maritime border,” Pompeo said.

“We are prepared to participate as a mediator and facilitator in the maritime discussions and we do hope that we will soon see substantive discussions on these important issues, the resolution of which would be greatly beneficial to Lebanon and to the broader region,” the secretary of state added.

Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war.

The issue of the shared maritime border is sensitive, mainly because of a dispute over coastal drilling rights.

In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for offshore drilling for oil and gas with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek.

Two blocks in the eastern Mediterranean are part of the deal, but Israel claims that part of Block 9 belongs to the Jewish state.

In recent months, Washington approached both sides to propose that it act as a mediator. In late May, the Israeli government said it had agreed to enter US-mediated talks with Lebanon to resolve the maritime border dispute.

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