Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir / TPS
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz

by Yona Schnitzer

Israel and Lebanon have been engaging in a series of negotiations mediated by the United States in pursuit of an agreed-upon division of an offshore gas field, as well as a dispute surrounding the exact route of the land border between Israel and Lebanon, according to media reports.

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This week Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reuters that a possible breakthrough has been reached between the two countries.

“There are some new ideas on the table. More than that I cannot discuss. There is room for cautious optimism, but not beyond cautious,” Steinitz said.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt has been involved in the negotiations, which Steinitz said he hoped would yield at least a partial solution by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Pan Arab London based newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri held a special meeting at the Presidential Palace in Beirut to discuss the negotiations.

According to the report, the Lebanese leaders condemned Israel’s construction of a concrete barrier along the border, calling it a violation of U.N Resolution 1701. The Lebanese Daily Star newspaper added that Beirut wants any talks to include maritime borders as well.

In February, Israel issued warnings to Lebanese companies not to drill close to its maritime borders, specifically referring to the disputed natural gas field known as Block 9, parts of which are claimed by both countries. The area in dispute is around 860 square kilometers.

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