Israel on Wednesday urged Lebanon to speed up negotiations on its disputed maritime border ahead of an expected visit to Beirut by the US mediator in the contentious talks.
The call came days after Israel moved a gas production vessel into an offshore field, a part of which is claimed by Lebanon.
Lebanon cried foul after the ship operated by London-listed Energean Plc arrived in the Karish gas field on Sunday, urging US envoy Amos Hochstein to visit Beirut to mediate.
In a joint statement Wednesday, the Israeli ministers for defence, energy and foreign affairs restated Israel’s view that Karish “is a strategic asset of the State of Israel”.
“The rig is located in Israeli territory, several kilometres (miles) south of the area over which negotiations are being conducted between the State of Israel and the state of Lebanon,” the statement said.
“The rig will not pump gas from the disputed territory,” it added, stressing Israel was “prepared to defend” the site.
“We call on the state of Lebanon to accelerate negotiations on the maritime border,” the statement said, adding that “locating gas-based energy sources” would help both countries.
The speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, Nabih Berri, said Hochstein was expected in Beirut in the coming days.
Lebanon and Israel last fought a war in 2006, have no diplomatic relations and are separated by a UN-patrolled border.
They had resumed negotiations over their maritime border in 2020 but the process was stalled by Beirut’s claim that the map used by the United Nations in the talks needed modifying.
Lebanon initially demanded 860 square kilometres (330 square miles) of territory in the disputed maritime area but then asked for an additional 1,430 square kilometres, including part of Karish.