(Photo credit: Getty Images)
Following the maritime border deal between Israel and Lebanon, Lebanese President Michel Aoun also discussed delineating the sea border between Lebanon and Syria with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.
A Lebanese delegation will travel to Damascus next week to discuss the border dispute, among other issues, according to a Lebanese official.
The dispute arose last year when Syria granted exploration rights to a Russian company in an area disputed by Lebanon.
Aoun announced that negotiations with Syria would be next in line after a successful agreement with Israel, brokered by the United States.
According to a Lebanese official who spoke with Reuters, Aoun said that Lebanon was keen “to begin negotiations with Syria to delineate its northern maritime boundary.”
Syria’s Sham FM radio reported that President Assad suggested holding talks directly via the countries’ foreign ministries.
The Lebanese delegation headed by Elias Bou Saab, the deputy speaker of parliament, would also include the Lebanese foreign and transport ministers as well as the head of the General Security agency Abbas Ibrahim.
Syria and Lebanon will also discuss the repatriation of some 6,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, according to an announcement made by Lebanon’s Minister of Displacement, Issam Sharafeddine on 20 October.
“On Wednesday, three convoys will depart from Lebanon to Syria … the number of returning refugees will be 6,000 people, and they will be divided into two groups,” Sharafeddine said in a statement.
Lebanon is the country with the largest refugee population per capita in the world. There are currently 1.5 million registered Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, with unofficial numbers being potentially higher, while the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimates the Palestinian refugee population to be anywhere near 479,000 people.
Over the weekend, Amnesty International urged the Lebanese government to cease the repatriation process, claiming it would return refugees to Syria involuntarily. This came after recent comments made by Lebanon’s Social Affairs Minister, Hector Hajjar, who asserted that his country does not need an “international green light” to return refugees to Syria.