Israel, Lebanon hold second round of sea border talks

Israel and Lebanon on Wednesday held a second round of U.S.-mediated talks over their disputed sea border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area, though sources said gaps between the sides remain large.

A UN ship in the southernmost area of Naqoura by the border with Israel. (Photo: AFP)

Delegations from the long-time foes reconvened at a UN peacekeeper base to try to reach agreement over their maritime border after an initial meeting earlier this month. The talks were held at the headquarters of UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura. Army roadblocks and UN helicopters circling above were seen around the site. 

The sides presented contrasting maps on Wednesday outlining proposed borders that actually increased the size of the disputed area, sources said.

The Lebanese proposal, which had been carried by local media for days prior to the talks, extended farther south than the border Lebanon had years before presented to the United Nations, according to a Lebanese security source.

The Israeli team presented its own map that pushed the boundary farther north than Israel's original position, according to a source familiar with what was discussed.

The teams will meet again on Thursday to continue negotiating.

The U.S.-mediated talks follow three years of diplomacy by Washington. They also come after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to establish full relations with Israel, under U.S.-brokered deals which realign some of Washington's closest Middle East allies against Iran.

The first round of talks was held on October 14. The U.S. and UN said in a joint statement that the previous meeting was "productive."