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Israeli minister sees U.S.-mediated Lebanese sea border talks in weeks

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel expects to launch U.S.-mediated talks within a month with Lebanon on setting their maritime border, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steintiz said on Wednesday.

Lebanon has not commented publicly on whether it would attend talks or on any possible timeline.

“I hope that in the next month, during this summer, that we will begin negotiations,” Steinitz told Israeli Channel Reshet 13. “They said that yes, they are prepared to sit and solve the dispute but there are still the terms (to be agreed).”

The United States, which has been sending a senior envoy on shuttle missions between Lebanon and Israel, also has not announced a date or venue but said it is prepared to help them resolve the dispute.

Formally at war since Israel’s 1948 founding, the neighbours have long disagreed on border demarcations in the eastern Mediterranean, an issue that gained prominence in the past decade when large deposits of natural gas were found there.

Steinitz said that it was likely that as soon as the talks begin, energy groups operating in both Israeli and Lebanese waters will be able to carry out the first seismological survey of the disputed area.

He said that he expected an agreement between the two countries to be reached within six to nine months.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Alison Williams)

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