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A maritime border marker near Naqoura, where the talks will be held. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty

Israeli officials are framing upcoming negotiations over their maritime border dispute with Lebanon as a matter of pragmatism — if both sides take a businesslike approach, they say, the issue can be resolved fairly quickly.

Why it matters: These will be the first negotiations between the two countries in 30 years. The maritime border dispute affects natural gas exploration, and the revenues at stake could reach the tens of billions of dollars.

The state of play:

  • The talks will be held in a big tent at the UN base in the Lebanese town of Naqoura, 200 meters north of the Israel-Lebanon border. U.S. mediators and UN diplomats will also attend the talks.
  • The U.S. mediator will be John Desrocher, a former U.S. ambassador to Algeria.
  • Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker, who facilitated the talks, and Jan Kubic, the UN envoy for Lebanon, will also attend Wednesday's meeting.

What they're saying: Israeli officials involved in the talks say they're prepared to make compromises to speed the process along:

  • “Our goal is to solve the disagreement around the maritime border. It is not a peace process and not normalization. This is a specific aim of solving a technical disagreement which is not very big but that prevents developing natural gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean," an Israeli official said in a briefing with reporters.
  • “If the other side wants to reach the talks to claim victory over the Zionist enemy we will not have any progress and the Lebanese will stay as they are now without any ability to develop their natural gas reservoirs. But if the Lebanese come in with a pragmatic approach they will get pragmatism in return and then we hope we can make progress and get a deal within several weeks or months. This is better than being stuck for another 10 years."
  • The Israeli officials said the gaps between the parties are not big, and none of the disputed portions of the maritime border are longer than 15 kilometers.

Go deeper

Aug 13, 2020 - World

Behind the scenes: How the Israel-UAE deal came together

Trump, Kushner and Netanyahu (L-R). Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty

The breakthrough in talks between the U.S., Israel and UAE on a normalization deal came two months ago, White House officials tell me.

Behind the scenes: Talks had been ongoing for more than a year, but they gained new urgency ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's July 1 deadline to move ahead on West Bank annexations.

The only Trump foreign policy Biden wants to keep

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Joe Biden disagrees with most of President Trump's foreign policy initiatives, but several of his advisers tell Axios that there is one he plans to keep: the Abraham Accords.

Why it matters: Continuing to push the Abraham Accords — the biblical branding the administration has given to the individual normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — could help Biden build positive relationships with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders in the Persian Gulf.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.