US envoy pushes Lebanon-Israel talks over maritime dispute

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US envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Beirut Sunday to push talks to resolve a bitter maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel over Mediterranean waters with offshore gas fields.

“Reaching a resolution is both necessary and possible, but can only be done through negotiations and diplomacy,” the US State Department said in a statement ahead of Hochstein’s visit. Washington’s envoy for global infrastructure and investment is “facilitating negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on the maritime boundary”, the statement added.

Hochstein met with Lebanon’s Energy Minister Walid Fayad on Sunday, and was scheduled to meet with President Michel Aoun and prime minister Najib Mikati the following day.

The maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel escalated in early June, after Israel moved a production vessel to the Karish offshore field, which is partly claimed by Lebanon.

The move prompted Beirut to call for the resumption of US-mediated negotiations on the demarcation dispute. Lebanon and Israel have no diplomatic relations and are separated by a UN-patrolled border.—AFP

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