by: Kate Norman
Thursday, 21 October 2021 | A US envoy arrived in Beirut on Tuesday to reopen talks on Lebanon’s energy crisis and finding a solution to the maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon.
Amos Hochstein, the newly appointed US senior adviser for global energy, met this week with Lebanon’s top leaders, including President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Arab News reported.
Topping the discussion list was “sustainable solutions to Lebanon’s energy crisis,” a statement from the US Embassy in Lebanon said.
After years of governmental corruption, Lebanon finds itself near rock bottom of a financial and energy crisis. Over 80% of the country reportedly lives under the poverty level, and Arab News reported yesterday that filling the tank of a medium-size car with fuel currently costs more than the national monthly minimum wage.
And for the first time since May, Israel and Lebanon will reportedly reopen the discussion to negotiate their shared maritime border.
After 30 years of silence on the disputed border, Israel and Lebanon reopened discussions in October 2020. But the US-brokered talks stalled after several rounds ended in Lebanon demanding 2,300 square kilometers (888 square mi.), increased from the original boundary of 869 square kilometers (336 square mi.).
The increased parameter would encompass part of Israel’s Karish gas field. Israel already conducts drilling at the site, but the border dispute has held up expansion in the resource-rich waters.
“Mr. Hochstein will also underscore the Biden Administration’s willingness to help Lebanon and Israel find a mutually agreeable solution to their shared maritime boundary for the benefit of both peoples,” the US Embassy statement added.
Lebanese President Aoun voiced “Lebanon’s readiness to continue to cooperate positively,” Arab News reported.
But that’s easier said than done with so much on the line—and Lebanon currently in such desperate need. The country reportedly is willing to reopen talks, but is not budging on its demands.
The talks are being mediated by Washington—as Israel and Lebanon do not have diplomatic ties, Lebanon does not recognize the state of Israel and the two nations are technically at war.
Hochstein—who was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military—has been a longtime adviser to US President Joe Biden, and was handed the reigns earlier this month to tackle the Lebanon crisis on behalf of the White House.
Posted on October 21, 2021
Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 21, 2021)
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