Steinitz to Lebanese president: Let’s negotiate maritime border

Author : Mircea Birca | Saturday, November 28, 2020
Posted in category Eurasia, Middle Orient
Comments Off on Steinitz to Lebanese president: Let’s negotiate maritime border

The invitation came in light of Lebanon increasing its demands for more maritime territory than had previously been part of the negotiations with Israel.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called on Lebanese President Michel Aoun to meet in Europe for direct negotiations on the maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon, in a tweet sent Monday morning.

The invitation came in light of Lebanon increasing its demands for more maritime territory than had previously been part of the negotiations with Israel, launched last month with US mediation at the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) headquarters in Naqoura, Lebanon.

Israel responded by expanding its own demands northward.

Aoun’s office tweeted on Friday that Steinitz’s “statement that Lebanon ‘changed its positions on the issue of the southern maritime borders 7 times’ is unfounded.

“Lebanon’s position is firm on the issue of maritime demarcation of the southern borders in accordance with President Aoun’s directives to the Lebanese negotiating delegation, especially with regard to Lebanon’s exercise of its sovereign rights,” the tweet reads.

Steinitz responded first by wishing Lebanon a happy national day, which was on Sunday, and wishing a quick recovery from the crises that have struck the country this year.

“I actually enjoy the dialogue that has developed between us about the maritime border on twitter in recent days,” Steinitz quipped, adding: “I am convinced that if only we could meet face-to-face somewhere in Europe for open or secret negotiations, we would have a good chance at solving the dispute over the maritime border once and for all, and thus contribute to the economic future and welfare of both nations.”

מכובדי נשיא לבנון @General_Aoun . ראשית, למרות מצב היחסים בין מדינותינו ברצוני לאחל לעם בלבנון לא רק חג עצמאות שמח, אלא גם התאוששות מהירה מהמשבר שפוקד אתכם. שנית, אני שמח לבשר לך, שאני דווקא די נהנה מהדיאלוג שהתפתח בינינו בטוויטר בימים האחרונים באשר למו"מ על הגבול הימי.
— Yuval Steinitz יובל שטייניץ (@steinitz_yuval) November 23, 2020

Steinitz said that it seems Aoun is not aware of all the facts of how Lebanon has repeatedly changed its positions over the past 15 years.

Steinitz explained in Arabic that Lebanon has submitted seven different maritime lines to the UN, UNIFIL and the IDF, as well as in the latest round of talks in Naqoura.

“Contrary to what the Lebanese government did, I instructed the Israeli delegation to act responsibly and adhere to the sea line that Israel deposited in the United Nations nearly ten years ago,” he said. “I also instructed our delegation to adopt a pragmatic approach in the talks in an attempt to ease and resolve the dispute, in order to provide the welfare of the Lebanese and Israeli citizens.”

Lebanese negotiators have sought more maritime territory than the 860 sq. km. triangle that had been under dispute with Israel for more than a decade, and their new demands encroach into Israeli gas fields.

The disputed area starts from the countries’ border on the Mediterranean Sea, and is 5 to 6 km. wide on average. The area would be about 2% of Israel’s economic waters.

The Energy Ministry has said that each year that has passed has meant a loss of billions of dollars for each side. Lebanon, however, has more to gain, since it imports billions of dollars of oil, diesel and liquid gas each year, while Israel no longer imports energy sources and uses its own natural gas, and even exports some.

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