Israel, Lebanon Begin Second Round of Maritime Talks
Representatives of Israel and Lebanon sat down in the southern Lebanese coastal village of Nakoura on Wednesday to begin the second round of discussions aimed at ironing out differences in their perceived sea border. At stake is the potential of billions of dollars of natural gas in offshore finds dotting the Eastern Mediterranean. The sides were brought together after intense lobbying by Washington. The talks are being hosted by the United Nations at a base used by UNIFIL, its southern Lebanon peacekeeping force. The sea border to two adjacent countries is usually demarcated by a line heading out to sea at an angle of 90 degrees from the coastline. The zigs and zags of the coast where Israel and Lebanon’s land border meets the sea make it easy to interpret 90 degrees in different ways, with the Israelis projecting a line that runs more northerly than that claimed by the Lebanese. In question are some 330 square miles of sea and seabed that can be mined for their riches. Lebanon is suffering from deep economic ills due to a staggering foreign debt, and officials there say the additional maritime territory could contribute a great deal to the country’s economy.