US secretary of state in Lebanon as part of Mideast trip

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, speaks at a news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday,

BEIRUT (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Lebanon, the most senior official from the Trump administration to visit the small Mediterranean country.

Tillerson is expected to meet with the country's top leaders Thursday — including President Michel Aoun, a key ally of the militant Hezbollah group — and discuss Lebanon's gas and border dispute with Israel.

Israel has recently escalated its threats over Lebanon's invitation for offshore gas exploration bids along the countries' maritime border.

Israel claims that Lebanon will be drilling in areas owned by Israel. Lebanese officials contest those claims, saying the area where it plans to drill belongs to Lebanon.

The long-standing dispute resurfaced recently as Lebanon invited companies to sign exploration deals. U.S. officials have previously tried to mediate the dispute.