US mediator Amos Hochstein on Friday noted progress in indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel over a maritime border dispute, but said more work was needed for a final agreement, AFP reports.
"I really feel that we were making progress these last few several weeks," Hochstein said at Beirut airport after meetings with Lebanon's president, prime minister and parliament speaker.
"I am hopeful with what I heard today and with what we discussed today but still more work needs to be done," he told reporters at the end of his third visit to Lebanon since June.
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 dispute escalated in June after Israel moved a production vessel near the Karish offshore field, angering Lebanon, which claims part of the field.
Energean, the London-listed company licensed by Israel to extract gas from Karish, said on Thursday that gas would begin flowing within weeks, despite the disagreement, according to AFP.
Lebanon initially demanded 860 square kilometers in the disputed maritime area but then asked for an additional 1,430 square kilometers, including part of the Karish field.
Israel claims the field lies in its waters and is not part of the disputed area subject to ongoing negotiations.
The Hezbollah terrorist organization, which has a significant presence in the Lebanese cabinet, has threatened an “escalation” if Lebanon does not get what it wants in the US-mediated maritime border negotiations with Israel.
The group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, recently said that not only the Karish gas rig is under threat but all of Israel's gas fields in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Before that, he took aim at Hochstein, who was born in Israel, accused him of being “dishonest” and added, "If you want to continue negotiating, go ahead, but not in Naqoura (the UNIFIL site in southern Lebanon hosting the talks), and not with Hochstein, Frankenstein, or any other Stein coming to Lebanon."
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)