Lebanon says difficulties in border talks can be overcome

BEIRUT: Lebanon wants maritime border talks with Israel to succeed and difficulties that surfaced in the last session round can be overcome, President Michel Aoun told a US mediator on Wednesday, after the latest round was postponed.
The negotiations between the old foes were launched in October, with delegations convening at a UN base to try to resolve a dispute about their maritime border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.
But a session scheduled for Wednesday was postponed with US officials instead pursuing separate contact with the sides.
Aoun told visiting US official John Desrocher that Lebanon wanted the talks to succeed to strengthen stability in southern Lebanon and allow for oil and gas investment.
“The difficulties that appeared in the last round of negotiations can be removed through in-depth research based on international law and the articles of the law of the sea,” Aoun told Desrocher, the presidency said in a statement.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday it had been agreed with the Americans that talks would be postponed for a few weeks.
The talks are the culmination of three years of diplomacy by Washington. Disagreement over the sea border has discouraged oil and gas exploration near the disputed line.
The Hizbullah, which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006, has said the talks are not a sign of peace-making with Israel. The group exercises significant influence in the state and backed the new caretaker government of Hassan Diab.
Israel already pumps gas from huge offshore fields but Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.
Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron will try to revive a French initiative on Lebanon when he hosts an international aid conference on Wednesday evening, but with the country’s fractious political class bickering, hopes of a breakthrough appear slim.
Four months after a massive explosion that killed more than 200 people and destroyed swathes of the capital city, Lebanon is no closer to forming a credible government to overhaul the bankrupt state despite French efforts to convince politicians to introduce partial reforms to confront the emergency.
— Reuters