Israel and Lebanon announced on Thursday that they have agreed to hold US-mediated negotiations on their maritime border. Israel and Lebanon have been in a state of war since 1982. The discussions will be held at the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Naquora, on the Israel-Lebanon border.
The talks are scheduled to begin next week, and they will be the first-ever direct negotiations between Israel and Lebanon on non-security matters. They will involve the dispute over an area of approximately 860 sq. km. in the Eastern Mediterranean extending out from the western-most point of the border between the two countries.
Although Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the sides had agreed to work out disagreements about the Blue Line, in addition to the maritime border, this has subsequently been denied by senior Israeli officials.
Although Israel has not ruled out Blue Line negotiations, Israeli media has reported that they would have to be held separately, and that different people would be involved. The Energy Ministry is deeply involved in the maritime border talks, because there is natural gas in that part of the Mediterranean, which both sides want to develop.
The Blue Line is the land border between Israel and Lebanon after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000. UNIFIL marked the line with blue barrels, giving the line its nickname.
Land border negotiations with Lebanon would likely focus on Mount Dov, an area of the Golan Heights at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syrian border. Lebanon and Syria had a dispute over the territory. Israel took control of the Golan Heights, including Mount Dov, in 1967, and asserted sovereignty over the area in 1981.
When Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000, the UN certified the departure, but Hezbollah and others in Lebanon consider Israel to be occupying Mount Dov, which they call Shaba Farms. LINK
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has announced that he will be making a televised address on Wednesday, which may include a statement on the scheduled maritime border negotiations.
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