US mediator: Very good progress in Lebanon-Israel maritime talks

Lebanon's Electricity Minister Walid Fayad, right, meets with US Envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein in Beirut, Lebanon, July 31, 2022. (HASSAN AMMAR / AP)

BEIRUT – The US mediator in a longstanding maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon said on Friday that the negotiations to resolve the conflict have made "very good progress”.

The two countries are locked in US-mediated negotiations to delineate a shared maritime border that would help determine which oil and gas resources belong to which country and pave the way for more exploration.

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Amos Hochstein arrived in Lebanon early on Friday for a lightning round of talks with top officials including the president, prime minister, speaker and deputy speaker of parliament as well as security officials.

Line 23 is the maritime line that Lebanon first set as its border during talks, before ramping up its demands to a line further south

"I think we're making very good progress," Hochstein said after meeting President Michel Aoun, deputy speaker Elias Bou Saab and General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim.

He added that he was hopeful an agreement would be reached soon.

Hochstein was last in Beirut in late July for meetings with Lebanese officials, saying after that visit that he looked "forward to being able to come back to the region to make the final arrangement."

At the time, a senior Israeli official told Reuters the government would present a new Israeli proposal that "includes a solution that would allow the Lebanese to develop the gas reserves in the disputed area while preserving Israel's commercial rights".

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A Lebanese official said at the time that the proposal would allow Lebanon to explore the entire Qana Prospect, an area with the potential to hold hydrocarbons and which crosses beyond Line 23.

Line 23 is the maritime line that Lebanon first set as its border during negotiations, before ramping up its demands to a line further south.

Exploration rights south of Line 23 would represent a concession by Israel.