Sep 21, 2022 - World

Lapid expresses "cautious optimism" on talks to end Israel-Lebanon maritime dispute

Israeli navy vessels are pictured off the coast of Rosh Hanikra, an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon (Ras Al-Naqoura), on June 6. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images
Israeli navy vessels are pictured off the coast of Rosh Hanikra, an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon (Ras Al-Naqoura), on June 6. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. mediators are engaged in indirect negotiations between Israeli and Lebanese officials in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in an attempt to reach a deal on the maritime border between the countries, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a briefing with reporters.

Why it matters: The talks between the parties have entered crunch time and the fact that both the Israelis and the Lebanese are in New York allows opportunities for more intense talks.

  • The dispute is over a potentially gas-rich, 330-square-mile disputed area of the Mediterranean Sea with an estimated value reaching billions of dollars.
  • The U.S., Lebanon and Israel have expressed a sense of urgency to get a deal as soon as possible amid Hezbollah's threats to go to war if Beirut's economic rights are not respected.

Driving the news: U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein and White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk have been engaged in recent days in shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Lebanese officials who stay in two different hotels in New York.

  • Israeli and Lebanese officials expect to get a draft agreement from the U.S. in the coming days.

What they're saying: “We are in the midst of very complex and advanced negotiations. I gave our negotiating team very clear parameters, in coordination with the Minister of Defense, on what our security, diplomatic and economic needs are," Lapid said in a briefing.

  • Lapid said that if an agreement is reached while upholding these parameters, it will be good but if not, “Israel is strong and knows how to defend itself."
  • Lapid added that he has "cautious optimism."
  • The White House declined to comment.
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