Lebanon and Israel began indirect talks Wednesday over their disputed maritime border, with American officials mediating the talks. Both sides have insisted the negotiations are purely technical and not a sign of any normalization of ties.
The US has been mediating the issue for about a decade, but only earlier this month a breakthrough was reached on an agreement on a framework for US-mediated talks.
The development comes against the backdrop of Lebanon’s spiraling economic crisis, the worst in its modern history. It is also following a wave of US sanctions that recently included two influential former Cabinet ministers allied with the militant Hezbollah group.
Beirut hopes that oil and gas discoveries in its territorial waters will help it overcome the crisis.
The US-mediated talks began at a UN post along the border known as Ras Naqoura on the edge of the Lebanese border town of Naqoura. The meeting took place in an outdoor camp setting because of the coronavirus.
Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers (about 330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as being within their own exclusive economic zones.