Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, right, meets with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, whose visit in Beirut on May 14, 2019 comes a week after President Michel Aoun presented the US ambassador to Lebanon with a "unified stance" regarding the demarcation of maritime border between Lebanon and Israel. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.


Iraq must not be dragged into another regional war: president

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Iraq’s President Barham Salih in London, Britain June 25, 2019. (The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office/Reuters)
Updated 3 min 58 sec ago
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Iraq must not be dragged into another regional war: president

  • ‘We cannot afford our country to be dragged into conflict’
  • Saleh said Baghdad’s priority was ‘stability’

LONDON: Iraqi President Barham Salih said Wednesday his country must not be dragged into another conflict in the Middle East, as tensions rise over its neighbor Iran.
“We have had four decades of challenge and turmoil. We do not want to be embroiled in another war,” he said at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs think-tank in London.
“We cannot afford our country to be dragged into conflict.”
With tensions high between Iran and the United States, Salih insisted his country would not become “a staging post for belligerents.”
“We are asking everybody to cool it down... enough is enough,” he said.
“We do not want to be a victim of a conflict in Middle East. We have not finished the last one,” the Iraqi president added, referring to the US-led war on terror and battle against Daesh.
“It is in our national interests to have good relationship with Iran,” he said, whilst adding: “The US is a very important partner for Iraq.”
Salih, who took office in October, said Baghdad’s priority was “stability.”
“We need to transform Iraq from a zone of regional and proxy conflict into a zone of trade, infrastructure development, and jobs and a future for young people,” the 58-year-old said.
Salih visited British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday for talks on security cooperation and nation-building.
May said Britain “stood ready to provide further support” to the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, her Downing Street office said.