US mediator says giving Israel and Lebanon time to reach maritime deal


An American mediator has reportedly informed Israel and Lebanon that if they cannot agree on a compromise on a disputed maritime region, he will end his participation in the talks.

US envoy Amos Hochstein, who visited Israel this week, suggested to senior Israeli officials that they must complete the deal before the March 2022 parliamentary elections in Lebanon, on Axios news site Israeli officials said Wednesday.

Hochstein was also in Beirut last month as he continued his efforts to revive stalled talks.

Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically at war. They each claim around 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as part of their exclusive economic zones.

The Israeli-born envoy to the US-mediated talks, a long-time close adviser to President Joe Biden, also told officials he had no plans to resume joint talks held at a base in the United States. ‘UN at the border. Instead, he would meet with each side independently and then come up with a transition proposal.

“Hochstein told us that he was not going to come up with a proposal that both sides would like, but the opposite – that both would not like. But if in three or four months he sees that the parties are not prepared to accept the deal, he will give up everything and no longer deal with this, ”a senior Israeli official told Axios.

Then-US Vice President Joe Biden (left) speaks with State Department Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein at the Caribbean Energy Security Summit at the Department of State in Washington, DC, January 26, 2015 (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Hochstein was seeking to get the two sides to make serious compromises, officials said, noting that the two countries wanted to resolve the dispute despite the tensions between them.

Lebanon is plunged into an economic and financial crisis that began in late 2019 – the culmination of decades of corruption and mismanagement by the political class. The small Mediterranean country is eager to resolve the border dispute with Israel, paving the way for potentially lucrative oil and gas deals.

Last month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against unilateral searches for natural gas in the disputed maritime region before a deal between Lebanon and Israel was reached.

In a high-profile speech broadcast from an undisclosed location at a ceremony marking the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Nasrallah said that while he would leave it to the Lebanese government to negotiate an end to the dispute, his group would not tolerate not Israeli excavations in the Region.

Accusing Israel of having a “greedy” eye on Lebanon’s natural resources, the terrorist leader said Israel was “wrong if it thought it could extract these resources from the disputed area before the end of the negotiations.”

“The resistance is capable of and will act against any Israeli action in the disputed area,” said Nasrallah, accusing Israel of giving the green light to a company to begin the explorations.

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