ASIA/LEBANON - Maronite Patriarch: Negotiations over sea borders do not represent "normalization" of bilateral relations with Israel

Wednesday, 14 October 2020 middle east  

Bkerké (Agenzia Fides) - The negotiations between Lebanese and Israeli delegates to determine the sea borders between Lebanon and Israel cannot necessarily be interpreted as the beginning of the normalization of relations between the two Countries, which have never formally revoked the state of war. This was underlined by Maronite Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Patriarch of the Maronite Church, in a long interview with the Lebanese television channel "Al Jadeed". "We urgently need to delimit the sea borders in order to be able to extract gas and oil", said the Patriarch, "but this does not mean normalizing relations, which is not possible for the time being". The Lebanese cardinal added that normalization in this regard: "Is not easy and it will take time". He recalled the Israeli military interventions on Lebanese territory and added that the bilateral relations that Lebanon has with the Jewish State "have experienced different circumstances than those of the Countries that have already signed a peace agreement with Israel".

The first round of negotiations on the maritime borders began today, Wednesday, October 14th at 10:30 a.m. in a camp set up outdoors (due to anti-pandemic measures) in Naqura, a Lebanese city on the border with Israel. Indirect talks are being held through mediators from the United States and the United Nations. The United States has been mediating between Lebanon and Israel on the controversial border issue for a decade, but the attempt to reach a framework agreement was announced only at the beginning of October, with the consent of both parties. Lebanon is facing a devastating economic crisis and urgently wishes to obtain access to the mineral resources identified off its coasts. At the center of the negotiations is an 860 square kilometer sea area that is claimed by both Lebanon and Israel as part of their territorial waters. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 14/10/2020)