U.S. Begins Mediating Lebanon-Israel Maritime Dispute

YERUSHALAYIM -
An aeriel view of the Israeli Tamar gas processing rig 18 miles off the coast of Ashkelon. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The United States has stepped in as a mediator in the maritime rights dispute which has flared up in recent days between Lebanon and Israel.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz met Sunday with a senior U.S. official tasked with defusing an escalating oil and gas dispute with Lebanon, the AFP quoted his office as saying.

Steinitz reportedly held talks with Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield about conflicting claims to energy reserves off the coasts of Lebanon and Israel in the eastern Mediterranean.

The leader of Hezbollah on Friday threatened to destroy existing Israeli gas rigs in defense of Lebanese rights in the region, and said the country was strong enough to withstand U.S. pressure to make concessions.

Last week Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas in a pair of offshore zones, including one that Israel says belongs to it.

Sunday’s statement quotes Steinitz as telling Satterfield that “a diplomatic solution is preferable for both sides.”