Report: US, France Regret ‘Freeze’ of Demarcation Talks between Lebanon, Israel

France and the United States have reportedly expressed regret over the freezing of US-mediated negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over the demarcation of land and maritime border that would have an impact on offshore oil and gas exploration, al-Joumhouria daily said on Wednesday.

International sources accompanying the negotiations sponsored by US State Department official David Satterfield said “the Lebanese side, specifically Hizbullah, has decided to stop the negotiations due to an Iranian-Syrian intervention linked to the new tension between America, Israel and Iran.”

In May, Israel had agreed to move forward with the US-mediated talks with Lebanon on maritime borders.

Last year, Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas in its waters, including for a block disputed by its southern neighbour Israel, with which it has fought several wars.

A consortium composed of energy giants Total, Eni and Novatek was awarded two of Lebanon's 10 exploration blocks last year.

It is set to start drilling in block 4 in December, and later in the disputed block 9.

Last year, Total said it was aware of the border dispute in less than eight percent of block 9 and said it would drill away from that area.

In April, Lebanon invited international consortia to bid for five more blocks, which include two also adjacent to Israel's waters.

Israel also produces natural gas from reserves off its coast in the Mediterranean.

Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war, although the last Israeli troops withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 after two decades of occupation.

Source: Naharnet

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