US envoy continues shuttle diplomacy over Israel-Lebanon gas dispute

US envoy continues shuttle diplomacy over Israel-Lebanon gas dispute
Lebanon signed offshore exploration agreements with foreign oil companies in February, which kick-started a years-long maritime dispute with Israel.
2 min read
21 February, 2018
A seismic vessel surveys Lebanese waters for gas fields [Getty]

The acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield met with Lebanon's foreign minister on Wednesday to help diffuse tensions over a border wall and gas dispute with Israel.

Satterfield has been shuttling back-and-forth between the two countries, which are officially at war and do not maintain diplomatic relations.

The assistant secretary sat down with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Wednesday, reported Reuters, less than one week after meeting with him on Friday.

Following last week's meeting, Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri announced the rejection of a US proposal that would give Lebanon about two-thirds and Israel one-third of a disputed maritime area in the Mediterranean.

The proposal appears to be a replica of one touted by US diplomat Frederic Hof in 2012.

During Wednesday's talks, Satterfield reportedly discussed how Lebanon can continue exploring the area and prevent drilling from being affected – the assistant secretary left without making public comments.

The US embassy in Lebanon said it hopes Lebanon can develop its resources in agreement with its neighbours.

Earlier in February, Lebanon signed offshore exploration agreements with France's Total, Italy's Eni and Russia's Novatek. One of the two maritime blocks under the agreement has waters claimed by Israel.

The eastern Mediterranean has seen a flurry of offshare gas discoveries in recent months and years – Cyprus and Israel have also discovered major gas fields in their waters.