(September 5, 2022 / JNS) Amos Hochstein, the U.S. State Department’s senior adviser for energy security, will visit Beirut at the end of the week to continue mediating the indirect talks between Israel and Lebanon regarding their maritime border dispute, Reuters reported on Sunday.
Hochstein will visit the region to follow up on talks with the Lebanese side regarding the delineation of the border, according to the report.
No further details were provided and the United States Embassy in Beirut declined comment.
Hochstein last visited Beirut in July for meetings with Lebanese officials.
The dispute concerns untapped Mediterranean natural gas reserves claimed by both Israel and Lebanon.
A senior Israeli official told Reuters in July that Hochstein would present a new Israeli proposal that would “allow the Lebanese to develop the gas reserves in the disputed area while preserving Israel’s commercial rights.”
Hochstein told Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International after the July trip that exploration would move forward when the energy companies had the “legal and diplomatic certainty” that would come from a maritime border agreement, Reuters reported.
“I remain optimistic that we can make continuous progress as we have over the last several weeks and I look forward to being able to come back to the region to make the final arrangement,” he said.
Previous U.S.-mediated talks failed to produce an agreement, especially after Lebanon expanded its claim in the disputed zone from a boundary known as “Line 23” further south to “Line 29,” adding around 1,400 square kilometers (540 square miles) to its demands, including part of Israel’s Karish gas field, where extraction is expected to begin this month.
The Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah has threatened Israel over the dispute. On July 2, the Israel Defense Forces shot down three unmanned aerial vehicles sent by Hezbollah from Lebanon toward the Karish platform, which is located some 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the coast of Haifa.
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