On August 31, a White House official said that resolving the maritime dispute between Lebanon and Israel is a key priority for the Biden administration.
“Resolving the maritime boundary dispute is a key priority for the Biden administration. We firmly believe a deal has the potential to promote lasting stability and economic prosperity for both countries,” the unnamed official told the UAE-based Al Arabiya news channel.
The Lebanese-Israeli maritime dispute returned to the spot light in June, when the Greek-owned Energean Power FPSO [Floating Production Storage Offloading] reached the Karish naval field to extract gas for Israel. Lebanon claims that the field is located within its exclusive economic zone.
The United States has been trying to mediate an agreement between Lebanon and Israel for the last few years. After assuming office, President Joe Biden tasked Amos Hochstein with the mission.
“While Special Presidential Coordinator Amos Hochstein has not visited Lebanon or Israel in recent weeks, he continues his robust engagement to bring the maritime boundary discussions to a close,” the White House official told Al Arabiya. “We continue to narrow the gaps between the parties and believe a lasting compromise is possible,” the official added, welcoming the “consultative spirit” of both parties to resolve the issue.
Despite maintain a strict stand on normalization with Israel, Hezbollah, is open to an agreement on the demarcation of the naval borders. However, the group wants the agreement to be signed as soon as possible.
In several recent speeches, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah warned Israel against extracting any gas from Karish before an agreement is reached.
Early on in August, the Israeli media reported a delay in gas extraction from Karish. Now however, it has been confirmed that the field will begin production towards the end of September. This would be Hezbollah’s red line.
According to the White House official, Hochstein is in communication daily with senior officials in both Lebanon and Israel.
Lebanese officials believe that an agreement on the demarcation of the naval borders with Israel is near. According to recent reports, the agreement could see Lebanon taking the Qana gas field and Israel keeping its exploring rights in Karish.