U.S. Official: Progress Made in Israel-Lebanon Talks Over Maritime Borders

A sign reading “No Entry – Closed Military Area,” seen at the border between Israel and Lebanon. (Basal Awidat/Flash90)

An American envoy said this week that he hoped to establish a framework agreement between Lebanon and Israel in the coming weeks in order to begin discussions on their disputed maritime borders.

In 2018 Lebanon signed a contract for oil and gas drilling in its territorial waters, specifically in an area disputed by its southern neighbor Israel.

Israel said in May 2019 that it had agreed to start talks with Lebanon through the United States to resolve the conflict with the territory.

“I believe that we are making progress step by step,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary for Middle East Affairs David Schenker. “I look forward to ending this framework agreement so that you and the Israelis can … continue to negotiate your borders,” he told Lebanese journalists during a conference call.

“I hope to be able to come to Lebanon and sign this agreement in the coming weeks,” said Schenker, who described revolving trips between Israel and Lebanon for discussions on establishing a negotiating framework as time-consuming.

Lebanon and Israel are technically still at war, with the latter maintaining a deep animosity for the Hezbollah terror movement, which has considerable power and influence in the current Lebanese government.