Mideast: ceremony for Israel accord Thursday, Beirut says

And Lebanon starts talks also with Cyprus, Syria

24 October, 16:22

    (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, OCTOBER 24 - Authorities in Beirut on Monday confirmed the exchange of documents between Lebanon and Israel to reach a formal agreement between the two countries, mediated by the US, for the definition of maritime borders and the consequent division of natural gas fields off the coasts of the two countries, which will take place next Thursday at the UN base of Cape Naqura, a border area between the two countries.

    Media in Beirut quoted the Lebanese presidency as saying that US mediator Amos Hochstein will arrive in Lebanon on Wednesday to attend the ceremony the next day at Cape Naqura. At the base of the UN military contingent deployed in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the country will be represented by a high official of the Lebanese army and the director general for oil affairs of the Lebanese energy ministry, according to media reports.

    The US mediation between Lebanon and Israel wrapped up after more than 10 years only a few weeks ago with an agreement described as "historic" between the sides. The two countries remain in a state of belligerence and have not yet started negotiations for the definition of the land border. The definition of the maritime border was possible thanks to respective financial interests for the exploitation of energy resources off the coasts of the two countries.

    After reaching an "historic" accord with the Israeli "enemy", Lebanese authorities announced they are ready to negotiate with Cypriot authorities for the definition of maritime borders between the two countries ahead of the division of energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Negotiations with Cyprus, according to Lebanese media reports published on Monday, will formally start only after the formal conclusion of the agreement between Lebanon and Israel next Thursday.

    Moreover, over the next few hours, authorities in Beirut have started negotiations with neighboring Syria for the definition of the maritime border, which is also necessary in this case for the division of energy resources between the two countries.

    Lebanese presidential palace sources quoted on Monday by local media said deputy Parliament speaker, Elias Abou Saab, was tasked by the outgoing head of State Michel Aoun, an ally of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, to visit the day after tomorrow Damascus for a "preparatory visit" ahead of negotiations for the definition of maritime borders between the two countries. Over the past few days, according to Lebanese media, Aoun spoke on the phone with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al Assad to start talks, connected - in this case as well - to the division of energy resources off Lebanese and Syrian coasts. Last year, Syrian authorities signed a contract with a Russian energy company for the exploration of that part of the sea disputed with Lebanon. According to Lebanon, the Syrian block 1 is in part in Lebanese territorial waters and coincides with Lebanese blocks 1 and 2. Russia has offered to mediate between Damascus and Beirut on the issue, reports said. Russia intervened militarily in the war in Syria in October 2015 and has been a strategic ally of Damascus for about half a century. (ANSAmed).

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