In the Lebanese city of Naqoura, the story of Middle east has experienced this Wednesday a discreet alteration. For the first time in 30 years, Israel and Lebanon, technically states at war, have met to discuss a civil matter: the demarcation of its maritime borders. After a decade of disputes, the dialogue sponsored by the HIM-HER-IT and mediated by USA aims to resolve the disagreements in an area of the eastern Mediterranean where lucrative natural gas resources they are waiting to be exploited by both countries. Recent US sanctions on Hezbollah pressure has increased on the Lebanese authorities to sit down with a Israel abounds on the international scene after the normalization pacts with Bahrain and UAE.
About 330 square nautical miles –860 square kilometers– in the Mediterranean they have been the source of disagreements between Israel and Lebanon during the last decade. These disagreements have impeded exploration in the zone rich in natural gas and the consequent development of gas fields. Far from a peace agreement, both states have faced the negotiations that took place this Wednesday morning in the border city of Naqoura from a point of view technical-economic.
“Our meeting will launch the negotiation train indirect techniques and represents the first step in a journey of a thousand miles to demarcate the southern borders & rdquor ;, stated during the meeting the leader of the Lebanese delegation, Brigadier General Bassam Yassin, according to an Army statement. Both parties have insisted on the need to resolve the dispute “in a reasonable time& rdquor; and have agreed to meet again next October 28.
No peace agreement
In the midst of a streak of normalization pacts with Arab states after more than two decades of drought by Israel, many have wanted to see this approach as the basis for a future peace agreement or normalization with Lebanon. The Israeli Minister of Energy, Yuval Steinitz, has insisted this Tuesday on the need to maintain expectations “realistic& rdquor ;. “We are not talking about peace talks or negotiations on normalization, but about the attempt to fix a problem technical-economic that for a decade has prevented us from developing natural resources in the sea for the benefit of the peoples of the region & rdquor ;, he concluded.
Looks like the Israeli and Lebanese team refused to take a photo together after talks today.
Here is the official photo w/:
– UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis
– US Assistant Secretary David Schenker
– Ambassador John Desrocher
– Ambassador Elizabeth Shea pic.twitter.com/JS41ASC4yA
– Sunniva Rose (@Sunniva_Rose) October 14, 2020
But the truth is that this first meeting in three decades to discuss a civil matter represents a shy gesture that breaks with the common trend of the absence of diplomatic relations between neighboring countries. He Lebanon does not recognize Israel as a stateAlthough, in case of agreement, it would be recognizing borders to the Hebrew State, a fact that some experts see as a slight normalization. The wound from the 2006 war that pitted Israel against the Shiite Hezbollah militia, very powerful in the land of cedars, remains open on both sides of the border.
Sanctions against Hezbollah
It was precisely the United States sanctions to allies of Hezbollah those that seem to have accelerated negotiations. Two influential former cabinet members of the Shiite Amal party, an ally of the pro-Iranian party, were sanctioned a few months ago for their support of Hezbollah. The Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri of the Amal party, affirmed that the dialogue had already begun before the sanctions since the exploitation of natural gas resources could “help pay the debt& rdquor; Lebanon, plunged into its worst economic crisis since the civil war (1975-1990).
The dispute over the maritime boundary began in the 2011 when Israel made a covenant with Cyprus which used as a reference point for territorial demarcation the one agreed between the island country and Lebanon in 2007, although this was never ratified by the Lebanese Parliament. In order to clarify it, the country of cedars declared to the United Nations that its border included 860 square kilometers further south the one agreed in 2007. Israel did not accept it, and both countries also began to fight over a piece of sea.
Political instability defines the actuality of Israel and Lebanon
On both sides of the border the political instability defines the actuality of these Middle Eastern countries. Despite the successes of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the international arena, his appalling management of the pandemic and his involvement in corruption cases have awakened a citizen movement that carries months demanding his resignation. In Lebanon, the absence of a government following the explosion in the port of Beirut adds to pressure both outside and inside the country to apply reforms to take the country out of the economic crisis and systemic corruption.