.
.
.
.
Lebanon crisis

US envoy to Beirut for talks on Lebanon energy crisis, border dispute with Israel

“The Administration welcomes the consultative and open spirit of the parties to reach a final decision, which has the potential to yield greater stability, security, and prosperity for both Lebanon and Israel, as well as for the region,” the State Department said in a statement.

Published: Updated:

US energy envoy Amos Hochstein will visit Beirut next week in an attempt to resume stalled negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over their maritime border dispute.

The State Department announced Friday that Hochstein would travel to Lebanon June 13-14 to underscore the Biden administration’s hope that the two countries technically in a state of war could reach a deal on the delimitation of their maritime borders.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“The Administration welcomes the consultative and open spirit of the parties to reach a final decision, which has the potential to yield greater stability, security, and prosperity for both Lebanon and Israel, as well as for the region,” the State Department said in a statement.

Hochstein will also discuss “sustainable solutions to Lebanon’s energy crisis.”

Washington has tried to mediate a deal between Lebanon and Israel since the early 2000s, including previous efforts by Hochstein under the Obama administration. One of the most significant breakthroughs came during the Trump administration when both sides agreed to sit in the same room to discuss a framework to potentially reach a deal.

However, a change in administrations in the US and Israel and internal bickering between Lebanese sides put a monthslong pause on the talks.

Hochstein previously said he would not expend unlimited diplomatic shuttling but repeatedly offered his willingness to help.

Lebanese officials invited the US envoy to discuss a written offer presented to Beirut regarding the maritime dispute with Israel.

And tensions ramped up this week after a Greek vessel entered disputed waters to begin drilling for gas. This led to a unified condemnation from officials in Beirut, and the Iran-backed Hezbollah threatened to act against Israel and the ship itself.

Regional deal between Cairo, Amman, Damascus, Beirut

In the meantime, the US diplomat has continued voicing support for a World Bank-backed project that would see Lebanon import natural gas and electricity from Egypt and Jordan, respectively.

The deal was first reported by Al Arabiya English last summer and later confirmed by US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea.

Republican lawmakers have been pushing back against US support for the deals, which would require both transactions to go through Syria, potentially benefitting the Assad regime.

On Thursday, Hochstein reiterated the Biden administration’s hope that the deal would go through only after the US Treasury Department approved the final contracts to ensure they did not violate US sanctions against Syria, otherwise known as the Caesar Act.

He said that Washington had provided “pre-clearance” for all parties to push ahead with negotiations and signing the contract. “But I want to be clear that that will be determined when the contracts are signed,” he said during a hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Hochstein admitted that what is making the approval of such a deal “so difficult” is ensuring it stays “out of benefiting al-Assad.”

With the World Bank saying that Lebanon’s financial crisis is one of the worst the world has seen in over 150 years, such a deal would reportedly help ease power shortages across the country.

“A total collapse of Lebanon is not in the interest of any of the countries in the region or the United States,” Hochstein said Thursday. “That is a unanimous view in the region.”

Read more: US lawmakers call for plan to integrate Middle East air defenses, confront Iran

Top Content Trending