Maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel scheduled for Wednesday have been postponed, and U.S. mediators will now contact the two old foes separately, Israeli and Lebanese officials said on Monday.
The long-time foes launched the negotiations in October with delegations convening at the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on the Lebanese side of the shared frontier to try to resolve a dispute about their maritime border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.
The talks were the first non-security ones between the two countries, which are technically at war.
Sources had said that gaps between the sides remained large after they each presented contrasting maps outlining proposed borders that actually increased the size of the disputed area.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio that it had been agreed with the Americans that talks would be postponed for a few weeks.
"In the interim, they will do some shuttling in order to better prepare the next round of talks," he said.
The Lebanese source said the reason for the delay was Israel's rejection of Lebanon's proposals.
Lebanon hoped that oil and gas discoveries in its territorial waters will help it overcome its historic economic and financial crisis.
The talks came against the backdrop of U.S. sanctions that recently included two influential former Cabinet ministers allied with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, seen by Israel, the U.S. and many Western and Arab countries as a terrorist organization.
Hezbollah, which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006, has said the talks are not a sign of peace-making with Israel.
Steinitz told Army Radio last week that there had been no breakthrough after four rounds of talks and that Lebanon had "so far presented positions which add up to a provocation."
Steinitz said he expected "many more hurdles and bust-ups" but hoped a breakthrough could be reached in a few months.