Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield held high level talks in Beirut on Tuesday in an effort to launch negotiations between Israel and Lebanon over demarcation of the maritime border between the two countries.
SATTERFIELD AGAIN TRYING TO LAUNCH ISRAEL-LEBANON MARITIME BORDER TALKS
Satterfield, who on Friday won Senate confirmation as Washington’s ambassador to Turkey, met with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and House Speaker Nabih Berri. He gave no statements after the meeting.
Satterfield shuttled between Israel and Lebanon last month, amid reports that UN mediated talks between the two countries would be held at UNIFIL offices in Nakura this month.
One of the key sticking points holding up the launch of the negotiations has been whether they will be open ended – Lebanon’s demand – or whether there will be a six-month deadline, Israel’s position.
The US reportedly has put forward a compromise solution whereby the talks will not have a firm deadline, but the US – in announcing the talks – will say that the hope is that they are concluded within six months.
Lebanon also balked at bilateral negotiations with Israel, which is why the US will serve as mediator, and why the talks will take place at the UNIFIL offices in Nakura, giving the UN some standing in the discussions as well.
The Lebanese are also reportedly demanding that the negotiations be conducted by military men, not diplomats, to avoid giving them the appearance of diplomatic talks. While Lebanon wants the talks to deal not only with the maritime border issue between the countries, but land border issues, Israel wants the talks to only focus on the maritime border.
The two countries have a dispute over an 860 sq.km. area that includes several blocs rich in natural gas.
Lebanese President Michel Auoun was quoted in the Lebanese media Tuesday following a meeting with French Defense Minister Florence Parly as saying, “The situation is stable on the southern Lebanese border as contacts continue to begin negotiations on demarcation of the maritime border. Ambassador David Satterfield expressed the convergence of views between the Lebanese and Israeli sides to begin negotiations in cooperation with the United Nations.”