Israel, Lebanon hold second round of sea border talks


FILE PHOTO: Signs bearing names of cities are pictured in Naqoura, near the Lebanese-Israeli border, southern Lebanon October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

NAQOURA, Lebanon (Reuters) - Israel and Lebanon on Wednesday held a second round of U.S.-mediated talks over their disputed sea border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area, though sources said gaps between the sides remain large.

Delegations from the long-time foes reconvened at a U.N. peacekeeper base to try to reach agreement over their maritime border after an initial meeting earlier this month.

The sides presented contrasting maps on Wednesday outlining proposed borders that actually increased the size of the disputed area, sources said.

The Lebanese proposal, which had been carried by local media for days prior to the talks, extended farther south than the border Lebanon had years before presented to the United Nations, according to a Lebanese security source.

The Israeli team presented its own map that pushed the boundary farther north than Israel's original position, according to a source familiar with what was discussed.

The teams will meet again on Thursday to continue negotiating.

The U.S.-mediated talks follow three years of diplomacy by Washington. They also come after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to establish full relations with Israel, under U.S.-brokered deals which realign some of Washington’s closest Middle East allies against Iran.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Dominic Evans in Beirut; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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