Lebanon specifies its starting point for maritime border talks with Israel

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President Michel Aoun on Thursday specified Lebanon’s starting point for demarcating its sea border with Israel under US-mediated talks, in the first public confirmation of a stance sources say actually increases the size of the disputed area.

Israel and Lebanon launched the negotiations last month with delegations from the long-time foes convening at a UN base to try to agree on the unresolved border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.

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A Presidency statement said Aoun instructed the Lebanese team that the demarcation line should start from the land point of Ras Naqoura as defined under a 1923 agreement and extend seaward in a trajectory that a security source said extends the disputed area to some 2,300 square km from around 860 square km.

There was no immediate Israeli comment.

Last month sources said the two sides presented contrasting maps for proposed borders.

They said the Lebanese proposal extended farther south than the border Lebanon had years before presented to the United Nations and that of the Israeli team pushing the boundary farther north than Israel’s original position.

The talks, the culmination of three years of diplomacy by Washington, are due to resume in December.

Israel already pumps gas from huge offshore fields but Lebanon, which has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters, is desperate for cash from foreign donors as it faces the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.

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