Lebanon and Israel began today, Wednesday, with US mediation, indirect negotiations to demarcate the maritime borders between them to end the dispute over the disputed area in economic waters, while Hezbollah and the Amal Movement objected to the composition of the Lebanese delegation in the talks that may take a few months, according to Israeli estimates.

A UN source confirmed the launch of the negotiations, which are taking place in a tent near the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Ras Naqoura, in southern Lebanon.

The Lebanese delegation includes four members, two military and two civilians, they are Brigadier General Bassam Yassin, Colonel Mazen Basbous, technical expert Najeeb Masih, and a member of the Petroleum Sector Commission, Wissam February.

As for the Israeli delegation, it includes six members, including Director General of the Ministry of Energy, Udi Adiri, the diplomatic advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuven Azar, and the head of the Strategic Affairs Department in the army.

The French Press Agency quoted Lebanese officials as saying that the Lebanese and Israeli delegations are supposed to sit in the same hall, provided that they do not talk directly, but rather through a representative of the United Nations.

According to the same source, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Schenker, will attend the opening session, provided that the US ambassador to Lebanon, John Deroche, will play the mediating role in the negotiations.

The area of ​​the disputed area, which includes natural gas stocks, is about 860 square kilometers.

The origin of the dispute goes back to the disagreement over the determination of the land border demarcation point at Ras Naqoura, which is supposed to be essential for delineating the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel.

Lebanon and Israel announced early this month that they had reached an understanding on starting indirect negotiations in Naqoura under the auspices of the United Nations, and at that time Washington described the step as historic.

President Michel Aoun during his meeting yesterday with Defense Minister Zeina Aker and Army Commander Joseph Aoun (Anadolu Agency)

The nature of the negotiations

In a joint statement issued yesterday, Hezbollah and the Amal movement announced in a joint statement their rejection of the formula on the basis of which the Lebanese delegation that will participate in the border demarcation negotiations with Israel is formed.

The two parties refused the participation of Lebanese civilians in the delegation, and considered that this harms Lebanon’s position, and represents a recognition of the Israeli logic that seeks normalization.

In their statement, they demanded the restructuring of the negotiating delegation in line with the foundations of the framework agreement that limit meetings to military officers.

The Hezbollah parliamentary bloc had previously said that the technical negotiations had nothing to do with the normalization policies it had recently pursued and that Arab countries might pursue.

For his part, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Tuesday that negotiations with Israel are technical and limited to delineating the maritime borders.

Aoun added during his meeting with the Lebanese negotiating delegation that the upcoming negotiations should be limited to the issue of demarcation specifically, provided that these negotiations begin on the basis of the line that starts from the Ras Naqoura area by land and extends by sea, based on the midline technique, without taking into account any impact on the coastal islands of Palestine. Occupied.

Lebanon stresses that these technical negotiations are similar to previous talks that took place within the framework of the April Understanding Committee following the Israeli war in 1996, or the negotiations to demarcate the Blue Line after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, and the tripartite meeting that is held periodically under the chairmanship of UNIFIL and with the participation of soldiers from the Lebanese and Israeli sides. .

On the other hand, a source in the Israeli Ministry of Energy said yesterday that the negotiations are important for Israel and crucial for Lebanon, and he suggested that reaching an agreement may take only a few months if there are no obstacles, indicating that Israel does not expect the process to lead to some kind of normalization or peace.

The Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, who was in charge of the file, had previously said that if the border demarcation process was successful, then there would be discoveries in the disputed area that would help pay Lebanon's debt.

A former Israeli military deployment at the Lebanese border (Anadolu Agency)

Israeli maneuvers

On the other hand, the Israeli army begins today military exercises with live ammunition south of the city of Haifa that last for a whole week, during which it simulates the outbreak of a war with the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The maneuvers test the readiness of the various units to wage street fighting and occupy villages in southern Lebanon.

The timing of the maneuvers is of great importance, especially at the height of the security alert on the Israeli-Lebanese borders, and with the start of negotiations to demarcate the maritime borders between Israel and Lebanon.