US offers mediation to break Lebanon-Israel stalemate

Washington is ready to keep working with Israel and Lebanon on negotiations for a maritime boundary.
Wednesday 23/12/2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks after a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, near the Israeli-Syrian border, last November. (AP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks after a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, near the Israeli-Syrian border, last November. (AP)

WASHINGTON--US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday voiced regret over a stalemate in maritime border talks between Israel and Lebanon and offered Washington’s mediation.

The two nations, which remain technically at war, opened negotiations in October after quiet US diplomacy seeking to clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration sought by both.

“Regrettably, despite goodwill on both sides, the parties remain far apart,” said Pompeo, who has one month left in office after President Donald Trump’s electoral defeat.

“The United States remains ready to mediate constructive discussions and urges both sides to negotiate based on the respective maritime claims both have previously deposited at the United Nations.”

The Trump administration has heralded major progress in its waning days in Israel’s relations with the Arab world.

Since October, four Arab nations have agreed to recognise the Jewish state.

The latest session of talks between Israel and Lebanon was put off after the Jewish state accused its neighbour of inconsistency.

The two nations have been negotiating based on a map registered with the United Nations in 2011, which shows an 860-square-kilometer (330-square-mile) patch of sea as being disputed.

But Lebanon considers that map to have been based on wrong estimates and now demands an additional 1,430 square kilometres (552 square miles) of sea farther south, which includes part of Israel’s Karish gas field, according to Lebanese energy expert Laury Haytayan.