BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s government has approved a second offshore energy licensing round with bids to be submitted early next year, Energy Minister Nada Boustani said on Twitter on Thursday.

Offshore energy development has been a central ambition for successive governments in cash-strapped Lebanon, but political paralysis has caused years of delays and the country is in dispute with Israel over the maritime border along some exploration blocks.

Lebanon awarded a first license for offshore oil and gas exploration and production last year to a consortium comprising France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek, which aims to drill its first well by the end of this year.

The Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA), the government agency that manages the sector, recommended four offshore blocks to be