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Lebanon, Israel expected to resume maritime border talks next week

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 are expected to resume US-brokered talks on a dispute about their Mediterranean Sea border next week, Reuters reported citing two Lebanese officials.

A Lebanese official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the US had informed Lebanon that the talks would resume on Monday.

The second Lebanese official told Reuters that the resumption of talks will coincide with a visit by US mediator John Desrocher, who is due in Beirut on an unspecified day next week.

US embassy officials were not immediately available for comment.

Last October Lebanon and Israel held several meetings at a peacekeeper base in southern Lebanon hosted by the United Nations. However, gaps between the two sides remained large after each presented contrasting maps outlining proposed borders that actually increased the size of the disputed area.

Since the talks stalled, Lebanon's caretaker prime minister and ministers of defence and public works approved a draft decree which would expand Lebanon's claim, adding around 1,400 square kilometres to its exclusive economic zone.

Lebanon said it is asking for its rights based on the international land border point established in 1922, which gives it an additional sea area of 1,430 square kilometres, making a total of 2,290 square kilometres.

In response, Israeli authorities drew up a new map of their maritime border claiming that the disputed area is originally two per cent of Israel's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Jerusalem Post said that the new maritime border referred to as Line 310 is larger than Israel's current line being negotiated with Lebanon.

Israel already pumps gas from huge offshore fields, while Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.

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