BEIRUT: The United States supports Lebanon’s efforts to move forward on oil exploration, Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said in remarks published Tuesday.
“Lebanon received renewed U.S. support to move forward on oil exploration and implement all the approved measures,” Bassil told the local daily As-Safir.
Bassil’s comments came following a meeting at his office Monday with a senior State Department delegation comprising Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy Amos Hochstein and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Lawrence Silverman.
Bassil said the U.S. officials praised him for his efforts and hailed his ministry’s levels of “transparency and professionalism in meeting the highest international standards.”
“I met them for two hours and there was a clear encouragement and praise for all the work done by the [Energy] Ministry,” he said.
As-Safir said it learned that Bassil stressed during the meeting Lebanon's right to its full economic boundaries as well as its right over the disputed maritime territory with Israel.
A statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said the U.S. delegation discussed during separate meetings with senior officials Monday the political, economic and security situation in Lebanon, in addition to regional issues.
Before meeting Bassil, the delegation met President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
“In their meetings, Mr. Hochstein and Mr. Silverman expressed their support for the Lebanese government’s efforts to implement fair and transparent regulations for Lebanon’s energy sector, and discussed Lebanon’s maritime exclusive economic zone,” the Embassy statement said.
It said the U.S. officials also underscored Washington’s commitment to assist refugees from Syria and the Lebanese communities that host them.
“They also welcomed the efforts of Lebanese leaders to reach consensus and uphold Lebanon’s democratic and constitutional principles and hold parliamentary elections on time,” the Embassy statement said.
Fears are running high in Lebanon that parliamentary elections, due on June 9, may not be held on time given the political parties’ failure to reach consensus on a new law voting system.
The State Department officials also renewed calls for all parties to exercise restraint and respect for Lebanon’s stability and security.