US envoy mediates in Lebanon-Israel dispute

Growing tensions over Israeli construction of border wall, Lebanon's start of oil and gas exploration at sea and Hezbollah

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil meets with Acting Assistant U.S. Secretary of State David Satterfield in Beirut, Lebanon February 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
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A senior US diplomat met with Lebanon's foreign minister on Wednesday in Beirut. The meeting was part of a US shuttle diplomacy effort to resolve a worsening dispute between Israel and Lebanon over a border wall and energy drilling in disputed waters.

Disputes over Israeli construction of the border wall, Lebanon's start of oil and gas exploration at sea and the growing arsenal of Lebanon's Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah have caused a spike in tensions between Lebanon and Israel.

Lebanon this month signed its first offshore energy exploration and production agreements with a consortium of France's Total, Italy's Eni and Russia's Novatek. One of two blocks given to the consortium, Block 9, contains waters claimed by Israel.

David Satterfield, the acting US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, has been shuttling back and forth between Israel and Lebanon in a bid to resolve the disputes.

Mr Satterfield and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil had also met last Friday, after which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated the Lebanese state's rejection of US proposals to resolve the maritime dispute as "unacceptable".

This was an apparent reference to a maritime demarcation line proposed by US diplomat Frederic Hof in 2012, which would give Lebanon around two thirds and Israel around one third of a disputed triangular area of sea of around 860 sq km.

Mr Satterfield left both meetings without making any public comments.

The US Embassy in Lebanon said Mr Satterfield "continues to engage" on regional issues and on helping Lebanon develop its resources in agreement with its neighbours.


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