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Israel Surprised by New Lebanese Demands in Mediterranean Talks

Israeli and Lebanese negotiators on Thursday sat down for a second round of talks over their joint maritime border, as the two countries, still technically at war, look to demarcate territories for gas exploration. The negotiations, brokered by the United States and launched earlier this month in the Lebanese city of Naqoura, resumed on Wednesday, when the Israeli team was reportedly flummoxed by a fresh Lebanese demand. Beirut is now requesting to draw the border line according to a 1923 agreement between France and Britain, essentially transferring to Lebanon the already productive Israeli Karish gas field and another bloc already up for drilling bids. According to Israeli officials, the new demand essentially amounts to a nonstarter given that the two sides agreed to negotiate only the disputed waters, much farther north, as decided upon with the Americans. The two entered talks after Hizbullah, the Lebanese political and military organization labeled a terror group by the US, the EU and Israel, relented and allowed it. Lebanon has stressed that the negotiations do not amount to peace talks with the Jewish state.