Israel suggested on Monday that it is open to United States-mediated negotiations with Lebanon over a long-standing dispute over a maritime border—and if talks are successful, oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean could receive much needed easing of the tension and positive regulatory and political climate for oil and gas companies.
Lebanon—which shares the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean with Israel, Cyprus, and Syria—has been far behind Israel and Cyprus in exploring and developing its share of resources due to political impasse over the past few years, and a dispute with Israel over Lebanon’s southern maritime border.
Lebanon and Israel have an unresolved maritime border dispute over a triangular area around 860 square kilometers (332 square miles) that extends along the southern edge of three of Lebanon’s 10 blocks.
The Lebanese-Israeli dispute is a long-standing one, but tensions rose again early last year after Lebanon called an oil and gas exploration tender in disputed territory.
In February 2018, reports emerged that a U.S. mediation between Lebanon and Israel in their dispute over offshore oil and gas blocks and maritime borders had failed.
Now, according to a statement from the office of Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz carried by Reuters, Israel was open to talks with Lebanon mediated by the U.S. The statement came after Steinitz met with U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, David Satterfield.
Those talks could be “for the good of both countries’ interests in developing natural gas reserves and oil,” Reuters quoted Steinitz’s office as saying in a statement.
Neither Lebanese nor U.S. officials have immediately commented on the possibility of such talks.
Last month, Lebanon said that it planned to include five offshore blocks in a future bidding round for oil and gas exploration. Four of those blocks lie along disputed maritime borders—two claimed by Israel and two by Syria.