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Lebanon, Israel reject moving maritime border talks to Europe

A picture taken on February 24, 2018 from Lebanon's southern border town of Naqura on the border with Israel, south of Beirut, shows the maritime boundaries between Lebanon and Israel. [JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images]
A picture taken on February 24, 2018 from Lebanon's southern border town of Naqura on the border with Israel, south of Beirut, shows the maritime boundaries between Lebanon and Israel. [JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images]

Lebanon and Israel have rejected attempts to move maritime border demarcation talks to Europe.

The attempted move comes after the indirect talks stalled in late November when negotiations reached an impasse.

Negotiators from both states are attempting to resolve a dispute about their maritime border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.

A preliminary meeting to reject the potential move took place in Ain El-Tineh earlier this week, local media Naharnet reported.

After the meeting, Lebanese Member of Parliament Yassine Jaber told reporters: "What's important is that we have returned the negotiations to Naqoura, after they tried to move talks to Geneva or Paris."

"It's a good thing that we have kept the negotiations in Naqoura and it is necessary for the military committee to take its time in preparing its files," Jaber added, saying: "There is nothing on the front burner."

In December, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed regret that negotiations had stalled and offered to mediate talks to help restart the dialogue.

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The indirect talks between Israel and Lebanon started in October after quiet US diplomacy brought the states, which are technically at war, to the negotiating table.

The pair of states completed three rounds of negotiations before talks stalled when Israel accused Lebanon of inconsistency.

At the time, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz tweeted: "Lebanon has changed position on the demarcation of maritime borders with Israel seven times."

Steinitz added: "Lebanon's current standing does not only contradict previous stances but also opposes its position on the maritime borders with Syria that include Lebanese islands close to the border."

He continued: "Any state that seeks to prosper in our region and wants to develop natural resources safely must adhere to the principle of stability and settle the dispute on the basis of what Israel and Lebanon submitted to the United Nations," stressing that "any deviation from that will lead to a dead-end and betrays the aspirations of the region's peoples."

In response, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the dispute between the two states could be resolved and expressed a desire to see negotiations resume.

Anadolu Agency, however, reported at the time that negotiations had been indefinitely postponed.

It remains unclear if, or when, negotiations will resume.

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