The U.S. State Department’s statement about U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein’s talks with Israel over sea border demarcation is a “positive” sign, Lebanon’s Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab said on Tuesday.
“We appreciate the U.S. administration’s pledge to communicate in the coming days and we hope it will lead to the resumption of the indirect negotiations in Naqoura,” Bou Saab added.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price had announced in a statement overnight that Hochstein’s conversations last week with Israeli counterparts were “productive” and have “advanced the objective of narrowing differences between the two sides.”
“The United States will remain engaged with parties in the days and weeks ahead,” Price added.
Prior to his video talks with Israeli officials, Hochstein had visited Lebanon following an invitation by the Lebanese government and after Israel set up a gas rig at the Karish field. Israel says the field is part of its U.N.-recognized exclusive economic zone, while Lebanon insists it is in a disputed area
Hochstein later announced that President Michel Aoun presented suggestions that "will enable the negotiations to go forward."
The U.S.-mediated indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel have been stalled since last year amid disagreements within Lebanon over how big the disputed area is.
The two countries, which have been officially at war since Israel's creation in 1948, both claim some 860 square kilometers of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to unleash offshore oil and gas production as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in its modern history.
Last year, the Lebanese delegation in the talks -- a mix of army generals and professionals -- offered a new map that pushes for an additional 1,430 square kilometers as Lebanese territory.