The U.S. envoy mediating between Lebanon and Israel over their disputed maritime border met Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Tuesday in Beirut, the president’s office said . The talks focused on ways of reaching a solution amid rising tensions along the tense boundary.
The meeting was held in the presence of U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab, and General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.
Hochstein then headed to the Grand Serail where he met with caretaker PM Najib Miqati.
Hochstein did not speak to reporters after his 40-minute meeting with Aoun, nor after his meeting with Miqati. Media reports said that Aoun, during the meeting, verbally informed Hochstein of Lebanon’s response to his proposal, urging him for a swift response. The reports added that Hochstein will come back with a response next week, after visiting Israel.
During a visit to Lebanon in February, Hochstein handed Lebanese officials a proposal which gives more than half the disputed area to Lebanon. Lebanon did not respond to the proposal.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, reports said that Aoun would put forward several proposals, including one which shows readiness to give Israel full control of Karish field in return for Lebanon getting the Qana field, part of which stretches deep into the disputed area.
Hochstein had arrived Monday afternoon in Beirut for talks with top Lebanese officials over the sea border standoff with Israel and had met with Bou Saab, Gen. Ibrahim, caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayyad, and Army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun.
He will also meet today with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Aoun and Miqati had urged Hochstein to visit Beirut to mediate over the border dispute after Israel moved a gas production vessel into an offshore field, a part of which is claimed by Lebanon.
Asked what the United Nations could do to advance the negotiations, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, said the U.N. can “work with the parties to help them find a solution through dialogues, through discussion, between both sides.”
The dispute over the maritime border is more than a decade old. In 2012, Lebanon rejected an American proposal of getting 550 square kilometers (212 square miles), or almost two thirds of the area, while Israel would have gotten the remaining third.
The offer was known at the time as the “Hoff Line,” after U.S. diplomat Frederick Hoff who was mediating then between the two countries.