The United States assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, David Satterfield, met on Tuesday morning with Energy Minister Nada Boustani to discuss the resolution of maritime borders with Israel and the possible oil sites that are currently disputed.
In the meeting, Satterfield mentioned that he is “encouraging” the U.S. government and American companies to invest in Lebanese oil and energy. He has been traveling back and forth from Tel Aviv to Beirut to mediate disputes over the border territories since early May.
Both Israel and Lebanon have agreed to expedite the process to find a resolution soon. Lebanon wants to find its first natural gas reserve, yet Israel already has several sites.
However, no American investments in Lebanese natural gas have been made as of yet. The first bidding took place over offshore oil and gas licensing along the border with three major companies as the victors so far: French gas company Total, Russian company Novatek, and Italian company Eni.
A second bidding round for licensing is set to take place later on, with the deadline put in place for Jan. 31st of 2020.
After meeting with Energy Minister Boustani, Satterfield went on to meet with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri in order to inform them of the latest feedback from Israel over the disputed maritime border.
There are 13 different sites that are currently disputed by Lebanese officials over the U.N.-designated Blue Line with Israel. The total area of disputed territory amounts to approximately 856 square meters.
According to Minister Boustani, drilling will begin to take place in Block 4 later on this year and drilling in Block 9 is projected to start in May of 2020. She also has emphasized transparency throughout the entire bidding process.
The second round of bidding has already started, and which companies will also obtain licensing for offshore natural gas remains yet to be seen.