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Lebanon urges return of US envoy to mediate maritime border dispute with Israel

In this photo released by Lebanese government, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, meets with US Envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein, center, and US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, left, at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, February 9, 2022. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Official Government via AP)
In this photo released by Lebanese government, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, meets with US Envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein, center, and US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, left, at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, February 9, 2022. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Official Government via AP)

BEIRUT — The Lebanese government invites a US envoy mediating between Lebanon and Israel over their disputed maritime border to return to Beirut as soon as possible to work out an agreement amid rising tensions along the border.

Today’s invitation for Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser for energy security at the US State Department, comes a day after Israel set up an oil rig at its designated location at the Karish field, which Israel says is part of its UN-recognized exclusive economic zone. Lebanon insists it is in a disputed area.

The US-mediated indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel have been stalled for months amid disagreement within Lebanon over how big the disputed area is.

Lebanon is home to the heavily armed Hezbollah terror group, which is backed by Iran and has fought several wars with Israel. Hezbollah has also warned it would use its weapons to protect Lebanon’s business rights.

Yesterday, Lebanon warned Israel not to start drilling in the Karish field and President Michel Aoun said maritime border negotiations have not ended, adding that any move by Israel will be considered “a provocation and hostile act.”

Today, the office of Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati says that he has agreed with Aoun to invite Hochstein to return to Beirut for talks on the border dispute and “to work on concluding them as soon as possible in order to prevent any escalation that will not serve the stability that the region is currently witnessing.”

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