Israel to hold US-mediated talks with Lebanon on sea border

A picture taken from Lebanon's southern border town of Naqura on the border with Israel, south of Beirut, shows the maritime boundaries between Lebanon and Israel. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 September 2020

Israel to hold US-mediated talks with Lebanon on sea border

  • Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war
  • Both are hoping to explore and develop new gas fields in the Mediterranean following a number of big finds in recent years

JERUSALEM: Israel will hold rare talks with Lebanon next month in an effort to resolve a longstanding maritime border dispute, an Israeli official said Saturday.
The official said Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz will lead the Israeli delegation in talks mediated by the United States. Representatives from the three countries are likely to speak by video conference because of the coronavirus pandemic, the official said.
The official requested anonymity in line with regulations. There was no immediate comment from Lebanon.
Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as within their own exclusive economic zones.
Both are hoping to explore and develop new gas fields in the Mediterranean following a number of big finds in recent years. US diplomats have been shuttling between the two countries and pushing for direct talks in recent years.
Lebanon, which is mired in a severe economic crisis, is especially keen to develop offshore energy resources.
The Trump administration is likely to celebrate any direct talks as another diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East, following recent agreements in which the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — Gulf countries that have never gone to war with Israel — agreed to recognize it and establish diplomatic relations.
Israel invaded Lebanon during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war to battle Palestinian militants who had launched cross-border attacks, and it occupied a strip of territory in southern Lebanon until 2000.
In 2006, Israel fought a month-long war with Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group. Hezbollah has vastly expanded its arsenal of rockets and missiles since then, and today Israel views it as its most immediate military threat.
Neither side is believed to be seeking war, but they have traded fire on a number of occasions in recent years, and both have warned that a future conflict would be far more devastating for the other side.
Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the US and other countries, is part of a political alliance that dominates Lebanon’s parliament and government.


Erdogan’s son-in-law leaves sovereign wealth fund

Updated 4 min 52 sec ago

Erdogan’s son-in-law leaves sovereign wealth fund

  • The 42-year-old quit as finance minister in a cryptic November 8 message on Instagram
  • His resignation was ignored by state media until it was formally accepted by Erdogan the next night

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law quit as the deputy head of Turkey’s huge sovereign wealth fund, completing a fall from grace that began with his surprise resignation as finance minister.
Berat Albayrak had been viewed as Turkey’s second most powerful figure until his chaotic departure from the government at the start of the month.
Married to the Turkish leader’s elder daughter, the 42-year-old quit as finance minister in a cryptic November 8 message on Instagram that cited health reasons.
His resignation from the helm of the Turkish economy was ignored by state media for more than 24 hours, until it was formally accepted by Erdogan the next night.
Albayrak’s two-year tenure as economy chief saw the lira lose 40 percent of its value against the dollar and the central bank burn though most of its reserves in trying to defend the currency.
His departure was linked to Erdogan’s appointment of a new market-friendly central banker whom Albayrak had strongly opposed.
Naci Agbal, the new central bank governor, sharply raised the main interest rate at his first policy meeting last week, helping the lira halt its slide.
Yet Albayrak still held on to his post as deputy head of the sovereign wealth fund, which was created in 2016 and now manages state assets officially valued at $22.6 billion.
Erdogan’s office said little about Albayrak’s departure, noting in a one-sentence statement that he “left the board of the sovereign wealth fund of Turkey after asking to take leave.”
He was appointed as its deputy head in 2018, the same year Erdogan became its official chief.