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Lebanon names team for maritime border talks with Israel

BEIRUT — Lebanon announces the members of its delegation that will hold indirect talks later this week with Israel over the disputed maritime border between the two countries.

The announcement by Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s office comes two weeks after Lebanon and Israel reached an agreement on a framework for the US-mediated talks. The talks are scheduled to begin Wednesday at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force in the southern Lebanese border town of Naqoura.

Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as within their own exclusive economic zones.

Aoun’s office says the four-member Lebanese delegation will be headed by air force Brig. Gen. Bassam Yassin. The three other members are navy Col. Mazen Basbous, Lebanese oil official Wissam Chbat and border expert Najib Massihi.

Lebanese officials have made sure to send a team of experts to show that this week’s talks with Israel are purely technical and don’t mean any kind of normalization between the two countries.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group said last week that the talks don’t mean reconciliation with Israel. A statement by Hezbollah’s bloc in parliament said last week that defining the border of “national sovereignty” is the job of the Lebanese state.

The talks will see the Lebanese delegation speaking through UN and US officials to the Israelis.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, is expected in Lebanon ahead of the talks to attend the opening session.

— AP

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