Lebanon says issues still pending over sea border talks with Israel

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri chairs a parliamentary session in Beirut, Lebanon. (Reuters/File)
Updated 03 July 2019
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Lebanon says issues still pending over sea border talks with Israel

  • Settling the maritime dispute could help both countries exploit offshore energy reserves

BEIRUT: Lebanon insists any demarcation of its sea boundary with Israel be implemented only as part of a wider package including the land border, and wants this in writing, the parliament speaker said on Wednesday.
Senior US official David Satterfield has been shuttling between Lebanon and Israel in an effort to launch the talks between the countries, which have remained formally in a state of war since Israel was founded in 1948.
Settling the maritime dispute could help both countries exploit offshore energy reserves. Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steintiz said on June 19 he expected US-mediated talks to start within a month.
But Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, speaking to MPs in his parliamentary bloc on Wednesday, said two issues were still pending and hoped that "work will be done towards solving them", one of the MPs, Ali Bazzi, said in televised comments.
"The first matter is related to the linking of the land and sea (borders)," Bazzi said. "The American position was talking about a verbal agreement, but everyone knows the stance of Speaker Berri on this issue - we don't even trust Israel in a written agreement, let alone an oral one," he said.
Lebanon also wants the United Nations to sponsor the talks rather than simply host them, Bazzi cited Berri as saying.
A statement from Berri's office on Tuesday said Lebanon wants the UN representative in Lebanon to sponsor the meetings "to deny the Israeli enemy the opportunity of snatching Lebanese rights".
A senior Israeli official has said that a UN peacekeeper position at Naqoura in southern Lebanon would be a possible venue for the U.S.-mediated talks.
Berri, Lebanon's point person with Satterfield, is a close ally of the powerful Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah, a political and military organisation backed by Iran that has fought numerous conflicts with Israeli.
Steinitz said it was likely that as soon as the talks begin, energy groups operating in both Israeli and Lebanese waters would be able to carry out the first seismological survey of the disputed area.


Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 55 min 41 sec ago
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Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.