April 28, 2014

BEIRUT: A senior U.S. official said Washington’s effort to resolve a dispute between Lebanon and Israel over offshore borders was making progress, denying an Israeli media report that the mediation had reached a dead end.

“I have now seen the article; it has absolutely no basis and seems to quote no officials from any country. Our discussions are going well and progressing,” Amos Hochstein, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy, told The Daily Star in an email.

The Israeli business news media outlet Globes reported last week that Israel had rejected a U.S. compromise proposal to resolve the dispute over the boundaries of the two countries’ exclusive economic zones.

Globes did not identify the sources for the information published in its article.

It also claimed that the ongoing dispute over the EEZ could delay Lebanon’s attempts to auction block 9, where most experts believe large quantities of natural gas are located.

Lebanon postponed its offshore gas auction date to Aug. 10 after the government failed again to pass two crucial decrees setting the number of blocks to be auctioned and determining the revenue-sharing mechanism and other technical and financial details.

Hochstein told The Daily Star earlier that Washington did not recommend that Lebanon drill in disputed waters until a deal on maritime boundaries was reached, adding that the U.S. government was working on ways to resolve competing claims over the territory.

Hochstein said that he was exchanging ideas on ways to resolve the dispute over the EEZ.

Lebanese officials insist that the entire 860-kilometer zone is part of Lebanon’s territorial waters, but declined to say whether they would invite international oil companies to drill in the area.

Hochstein stressed that oil firms would be unwilling to explore in contested waters until a final deal between Lebanon and Israel was reached.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 28, 2014, on page 5.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Business/Lebanon/2014/Apr-28/254579-us-sees-progress-on-lebanon-israel-gas-row.ashx#ixzz30VhSfAKi
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)