US Envoy Expected to Visit Beirut Next Week Over Israel Gas Dispute

(Reuters) — A U.S. mediator will visit Beirut next week to discuss a dispute over a maritime border with Israel, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Tuesday, according to a parliament source and local media.

U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein will visit on Sunday or Monday, Berri told a parliamentary session in Beirut.

Asked about Berri's remark, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson referred Reuters to comments on Monday by State Department spokesperson Ned Price who said there were no travel plans to announce.

Lebanon said on Monday it would invite Hochstein to Beirut to continue negotiations over the issue to prevent any escalation, after accusing Israel of encroaching on contested waters. 

On Sunday a vessel operated by London-based Energean arrived at a gas field which Lebanon says falls within the contested waters.

Israel says the Karish field, about 80 km (50 miles) west of the city of Haifa, is part of its exclusive economic zone.

Israel said on Monday the dispute was a civilian issue to be resolved diplomatically with U.S. mediation.

The United States began mediating indirect talks on the issue in 2020.

Lebanon has yet to respond to an undisclosed proposal by the U.S. envoy Hochstein earlier this year.

In a media briefing on Monday, State Department Spokesperson Price said that a deal on the maritime border is possible "if both sides negotiate in good faith and realize the benefit to both countries. To that end, we do strongly support efforts to reach a mutually beneficial agreement."


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