Biden administration envoy hopes to continue Lebanese-Israeli talks

The US State Department’s senior adviser on energy security, Amos Hochstein, will be the US mediator between Israel and Lebanon in their border dispute, a State Department spokesman confirmed on Saturday night.

“We can confirm that Amos Hochstein will resume his role as US mediator for the talks on the Israeli-Lebanese maritime border, which he held under the Obama administration,” the spokesman said. “It seeks to build on the solid work done by Ambassador John Deschent over the past year. “

The special adviser is expected to visit Lebanon and Israel this month.

“We welcome the appointment of a professional who will bring about agreements on the subject,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy.

Born in Israel, Hochstein spent his adult life in the United States, working in Congress before the State Department and in a similar post as envoy in the Obama administration, Under Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and John Kerry. He was seen as a possible candidate for the Biden administration’s ambassador to Israel.

At the end of the Obama administration in 2015, Hochstein made efforts to restart talks between Beirut and Jerusalem over their disputed maritime border.

These negotiations did not begin until October 2020, the first talks between the countries in 30 years, with Deschent as mediator. They collapsed shortly after.

Israeli-Lebanese border (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM / THE JERUSALEM POST)

Israel and Lebanon do not agree on the course of the maritime border between their countries. Settling the dispute would allow gas exploration in the region to continue, which in turn could give a much needed boost to the collapsed Lebanese economy.

The dispute concerns a triangular area of ​​the Mediterranean Sea starting at the land border between the countries. The area has an average width of five to six kilometers and accounts for about 2% of Israel’s economic waters.

However, earlier this year, Lebanon increased its demands by submitting a new border that would increase the disputed area by 860 km². to 2,300 km².

Energy Minister Karin Elharrar said in June that “despite Israel’s strong legal record, we are ready to consider creative solutions to close the case.”

Lebanese officials expressed outrage last month after Haillburton Company announced it had a contract with Greek energy producer Energean to drill into the Karish North natural gas field, which lies near the maritime border contested with Lebanon.

Israel’s Energy Ministry said the drilling is not new and is not taking place in the disputed area.

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