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Pompeo regrets Israel-Lebanon stalemate on maritime border, offers US mediation

Outgoing US secretary of state laments that ‘parties remain far apart,’ urges continued negotiations despite the impasse

A helicopter flies over a base of the UN peacekeeping force, in the town of Naqoura, Lebanon, October 14, 2020, during the first round of talks between Lebanese and Israeli delegations on the countries' maritime border. (AP/Bilal Hussein)
A helicopter flies over a base of the UN peacekeeping force, in the town of Naqoura, Lebanon, October 14, 2020, during the first round of talks between Lebanese and Israeli delegations on the countries' maritime border. (AP/Bilal Hussein)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday voiced regret over a stalemate in maritime border talks between Israel and Lebanon and offered Washington’s mediation.

The two nations, which remain technically at war, opened negotiations in October after quiet US diplomacy, seeking to clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration sought by both.

“Regrettably, despite goodwill on both sides, the parties remain far apart,” said Pompeo, who has one month left in office after US President Donald Trump’s electoral defeat.

“The United States remains ready to mediate constructive discussions and urges both sides to negotiate based on the respective maritime claims both have previously deposited at the United Nations,” Pompeo said

Illustrative: US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the State Department in Washington, on August 19, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

The Trump administration has heralded major progress in its waning days in Israel’s relations with the Arab world. Since October, four Arab nations have agreed to normalize relations with the Jewish state.

The latest session of talks between Israel and Lebanon was put off after the Jewish state accused its neighbor of inconsistency.

The two nations have been negotiating based on a map registered with the United Nations in 2011, which shows an 860-square-kilometer (330-square-mile) patch of sea as being disputed.

But Lebanon considers that map to have been based on wrong estimates and now demands an additional 1,430 square kilometers (552 square miles) of sea farther south, which includes part of Israel’s Karish gas field, according to Lebanese energy expert Laury Haytayan.

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