Elharrar: Israel mulling creative solutions to Lebanon gas dispute
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Elharrar: Israel mulling creative solutions to Lebanon gas dispute

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Maritime border talks between Israel and Lebanon continued indirectly on Wednesday, with new Energy Minister Karin Elharrar meeting with US negotiator John Desrocher.

Elharrar said that “despite Israel’s strong legal case, we are willing to consider creative solutions to bring the matter to a close.”

The minister also emphasized the importance of continuing negotiations, despite the change of government in Israel.

Israel and Lebanon began negotiations in October 2020 for the first time in 30 years, with the teams gathering at the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) base in Naqoura, Lebanon, near Rosh Hanikra. The talks broke down in November and picked up again last month.

The maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon is about a triangular area of the Mediterranean Sea starting at the land border between the countries. The area is five to six kilometers wide on average and makes up about 2% of Israel’s economic waters.

The countries hope that settling the border would encourage further gas exploration in the area. Israel already pumps significant amounts of gas from the Mediterranean, but Lebanon has yet to do so.

Wednesday’s meeting was Elharrar’s first with Desrocher since she was sworn in with the new government on Sunday, and she told him she was already briefed by Energy Ministry Director-General Udi Adiri and is up to date on the talks with Lebanon. Elharrar was joined by Deputy National Security Adviser Reuven Azar, Foreign Ministry Political Director Alon Bar, IDF Strategic Division head Oren Setter and others.

Desrocher was in Beirut earlier this week to discuss the dispute over Israel and Lebanon’s exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean Sea.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun told Desrocher that he would be willing to continue indirect negotiations with Israel, and called on the US to increase pressure on Jerusalem.

Earlier this year, Lebanon increased its demands with a line extending much further south that would increase the disputed area from 860 sq.km. to 2,300 sq.km.

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