BEIRUT — Following years of political wrangling over the decades-old maritime border along Lebanon’s southern coast, as well as fierce clashes between Israeli and Lebanese forces, the countries have launched talks to try to settle the dispute and achieve a calm near the disputed waters.
The talks began on Monday, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, according to Lebanese and Israeli officials. The talks, facilitated by the United States, are expected to last about two months, according to Lebanese officials, and involve one diplomat each from Israel and Lebanon.
In recent years, Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group in Lebanon, has been steadily advancing its influence in that country, forging closer ties with the Shiite-dominated Hezbollah-dominated militia in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. The ability of those fighters to drive Israeli forces out of southern Lebanon in 2000 led Israel to annex much of the mountain-top heights overlooking the port city of Tyre.
Now the sea border line facing Lebanon is dangerously close to the Israeli coastline, in part because of spillover from the conflict in Syria, which is embroiled in a bloody civil war. The maritime boundary issue is one of several military irritants between the countries, including a decades-old dispute over whether to recognize Lebanese sovereignty over a section of the disputed mountain range.