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Israel-Lebanon Talks on Maritime Border to Start Next Month

Israel and Lebanon are expected to begin U.S.-mediated discussions on the demarcation of their maritime border in July, according to Israel’s Channel 13 news. The discussions are expected to take place at the offices of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, a U.N. peacekeeping unit, in Naqoura, a coastal town inside Lebanon just north of the border. U.S. envoy David Satterfield said he made “substantial progress” in his talks with both countries and that, although the meetings would not have a firm deadline, Channel 13 cited unnamed Israeli officials as saying that Washington was hoping to wrap things up in six months. The Lebanese have said the meetings would deal with both the maritime and land border, although the Israelis are citing just the maritime border, which has been under dispute for two years since Beirut accepted bids in a tender to explore for natural gas and oil in two offshore areas. Israel argues that parts of one area are on its side of the maritime border. Recent discoveries of oil and gas reserves off the two countries’ shores are predicted to generate up to $600 billion over the next few decades.