Bou Habib expects border deal with Israel in September


Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said Sunday that he expects Lebanon and Israel to reach a sea border demarcation agreement in September.

Bou Habib made the announcement in remarks to LBCI television.

The statement comes a day after Hezbollah sent three unarmed drones towards an Israeli gas rig in the Karish field, in what it said was a reconaissance mission over a "disputed" territory.

Hezbollah also said that the launching of the drones was aimed at sending a "message" to Israel.

Hezbollah's move appears to be an attempt to influence U.S.-brokered negotiations between Israel and Lebanon over their maritime border, an area that is rich in natural gas.

Israel last month set up a gas rig in the Karish field, which it says lies within part of its internationally recognized economic waters. Lebanon has claimed it is in disputed waters.

The U.S. last week said that mediator Amos Hochstein had held conversations with the Lebanese and Israeli sides. "The exchanges were productive and advanced the objective of narrowing differences between the two sides. The United States will remain engaged with parties in the days and weeks ahead," his office said in a statement last week.

Lebanon and Israel, which have been officially at war since Israel's creation in 1948, both claim some 860 square kilometers of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to exploit offshore gas reserves as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in its modern history.

On Saturday, careraker Prime Minister Najib Mikati told reporters that Lebanon received "encouraging information" regarding the border dispute but refused to comment further saying Beirut is waiting for the "written official response to the suggestions by the Lebanese side."

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