Berri Hails 'Victory' in Border Demarcation Talksإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday described the outcome of the U.S.-mediated talks over the demarcation of the southern territorial and maritime borders as a “victory for the Lebanese stance.”
“He is optimistic and he considers what has happened so far as a victory for the official and popular Lebanese stance in terms of preserving sovereignty regarding the territorial and maritime resources,” MP Ali Bazzi said about Berri's stance following the weekly Ain el-Tineh meeting.
A top U.S. envoy has said Israel agreed to discuss disputed land and sea borders with Lebanon, which is eying hydrocarbon exploration off its coast, according to two Lebanese officials.
Last year, Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas in its waters, including for a block disputed by Israel, with which it has fought several wars.
The U.S. State Department's acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, David Satterfield, held a meeting in Beirut on Monday on his second visit in a week.
Satterfield "told officials Israel had agreed to hold negotiations to draw up the maritime border" with Lebanon, an official source who attended the meeting told AFP.
Israel also agreed to discuss the territorial frontier between the two countries, including several disputed areas, the source said.
A delegation from each side would take part in talks at the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, UNIFIL, but the latter would not be a party to the talks, he added.
Another source familiar with the plan said negotiations would begin soon.
"There has been positive progress overall, and the issue is down to the last details before the start of the negotiations," they said.
Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war, although the last Israeli troops withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 after two decades of occupation.
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.
On April 5, Lebanon invited international consortia to bid for five more blocks, which include two also adjacent to Israel's waters.