2020-10-14 15:23

Lebanon, Israel to start landmark maritime border talks ymi世界播



Lebanon and Israel had agreed to begin UN-brokered negotiations, in what Washington hailed a "historic" agreement. ymi世界播


BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanon and Israel, still technically at war, begin unprecedented talks sponsored by the UN and Washington on Wednesday (Oct 14) to settle a maritime border dispute and clear the way for hydrocarbon exploration. ymi世界播


Following years of US shuttle diplomacy, Lebanon and Israel, this month said they had agreed to begin UN-brokered negotiations, in what Washington hailed a "historic" agreement. ymi世界播


The talks, which will be held at the headquarters of UN peacekeeping force Unifil in the Lebanese border town of Naqura, come weeks after Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab nations to establish relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. ymi世界播


This has prompted suspicions that the flurry of US-sponsored diplomacy relating to Israel is linked to President Donald Trump's re-election campaign. ymi世界播

这引发了人们的怀疑,即美国发起的一系列与以色列有关的外交活动与唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)总统的连任竞选活动有关。ymi世界播

The Naqura talks, which will focus exclusively on the disputed sea frontier, come at a sensitive time as Lebanon, battered by multiple crises, hopes to continue exploring for oil and gas in a part of the Mediterranean also claimed by Israel. ymi世界播


US envoy David Schenker will facilitate the opening session along with US Ambassador to Algeria John Desrocher, who will mediate in the talks. ymi世界播

美国特使大卫·申克(David Schenker)将与美国驻阿尔及利亚大使约翰·德斯罗彻(John Desrocher)一起主持开幕式,德斯罗彻将在会谈中进行调解。ymi世界播

Israel has said that there will be "direct negotiations", something Lebanese officials have denied. ymi世界播


It is expected the two delegations will be sitting in the same hall. ymi世界播


Talks are due to start in the morning, but no specific time has been made public. ymi世界播


Israel is sending a six-member team, including the director-general of its energy ministry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign policy adviser and the head of the army's strategic division. ymi世界播

以色列将派出一个六人小组,其中包括能源部部长、总理本雅明·内塔尼亚胡(Benjamin Netanyahu)的外交政策顾问和军队战略师的负责人。ymi世界播

Lebanon's four-member delegation comprises two army officers, a Lebanese oil official and a maritime border law expert. ymi世界播


Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and this week's talks are a rare official interaction. ymi世界播


Lebanon insists that negotiations are purely technical and don't involve any soft political normalisation with Israel. ymi世界播


Lebanon, mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, is looking to settle the maritime border dispute so it can press its offshore quest for oil and gas. ymi世界播


In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for drilling in two blocks in the Mediterranean with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek. ymi世界播


Exploration of one of the blocks is more controversial as part of it is located in an 860 sq km area claimed by both Israel and Lebanon. ymi世界播


A senior source at Israel's energy ministry told AFP that the border dispute "can be concluded hopefully in a few months time." ymi世界播


"This is a limited effort to resolve a well-defined, limited problem," he said. ymi世界播


"We have no illusions. Our aim is not to create here some kind of normalisation or peace process." ymi世界播


Dr Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, said that an agreement between the two sides is the "best option for Lebanon so that it could start work in Block 9". ymi世界播

贝鲁特美国大学政治学教授Hilal Khashan博士说,双方达成协议是“黎巴嫩的最佳选择,这样它就可以在第9号区块开始工作”。ymi世界播

But he questioned the timing, saying it was likely scheduled by the Trump administration ahead of presidential elections so it can chalk up a "new foreign policy accomplishment". ymi世界播


Reactions to the talks have been mixed in Lebanon, still reeling from a huge Aug4 explosion at Beirut port that killed more than 190 people and dealt another crippling blow to Lebanon's crisis-hit economy. ymi世界播


Hizbollah critics on social media have described the talks as contrasting with the powerful Iran-backed movement's anti-Israel stance. ymi世界播


The pro-Hizbollah Al-Akhbar daily on Monday called them "a moment of unprecedented political weakness for Lebanon", arguing that Israel is the real "beneficiary". ymi世界播


Hizbollah is both an armed group that has fought several wars against Israel and a major force in Lebanese politics, with seats in Parliament. ymi世界播


Last Thursday, its parliamentary bloc stressed that demarcating Lebanon's disputed maritime border with Israel does not signify "reconciliation" or "normalisation". ymi世界播


Following a 2006 war, regular talks between Israeli and Lebanese army officers were re-established under Unifil's auspices. ymi世界播


As well as the discussions on the maritime border to be facilitated by the US, a Unifil-brokered track is also due to address outstanding land border disputes. ymi世界播


Khashan of AUB said these negotiations would be more complex as they would undoubtedly raise the issue of the formidable arsenal held by Hizbollah, the only Lebanese group not to have disarmed after Lebanon's civil war. ymi世界播


"Hizbollah will not agree to give up its arsenal," he said. ymi世界播


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