Amos Hochstein
Amos Hochstein REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Amos Hochstein, the US diplomat mediating talks between Lebanon and Israel over their shared maritime border, will be in Beirut at the end of the week, Lebanon’s presidential palace said in a statement quoted by Reuters on Sunday.

The statement said Hochstein would be in Lebanon to follow up on discussions with the Lebanese side on the delineation, without providing more details.

The US embassy in Beirut declined to comment.

Israeli officials told Barak Ravid of Axios last week that Hochstein is expected to visit Beirut and Jerusalem in an effort to reach a deal in the dispute.

In 2021, official discussions commenced between representatives of Israel and Lebanon, with the aim of reaching an agreement on their maritime border.

There have been major natural gas discoveries off the coasts of both countries during the last decade, and the border dispute has halted gas exploration in an area that has attracted the interest of US energy companies.

The talks were initiated after Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas off its coast with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek, including in a block disputed by Israel.

Israel says one of two blocks in the eastern Mediterranean where Lebanon wants to drill for oil belongs to it, and had denounced any exploration by Beirut as "provocative".

The Lebanese government, for its part, has objected to the arrival of a vessel operated by London-based Energean off the Mediterranean coast to develop the Karish field.

Hochstein was last in Beirut in late July for meetings with Lebanese officials.

At the time, a senior Israeli official told Reuters that Hochstein 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".

After his visit, Hochstein said he remained optimistic about making progress towards a deal.