Lebanese Stance on Border Dispute with Israel Enables Talks, US Mediator Says

Outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, right, meets with U.S. envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT (Reuters/Hamodia) – The U.S. official mediating a maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel said on Tuesday that a proposal he received from Lebanese officials during a visit to Beirut “will enable negotiations to go forward.”

U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein said Lebanese officials had taken “a very strong step forward today by presenting a more unified approach,” in comments made during an interview with U.S.-based media outlet al-Hurra.

Israel has said that recent Lebanese claims for additional areas were baseless, and were the cause of the previous round of talks being halted in the first place.

In Beirut, Hochstein met with President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other officials.

A Lebanese official who attended the meetings told The Associated Press that they focused on the disputed area of the Mediterranean and that the additional area Lebanon was pushing for — known in Lebanon as Line 29 — was shelved.

“The Israelis are totally refusing to talk about Line 29,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the negotiations with the media.

The anonymous official also said Lebanon wants to get full control of the Qana field and has reservations about Israel working in the Karish field without a final agreement with Lebanon, according to AP.

Meanwhile, in what appeared an ill-timed comment, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had harsh words for Lebanese officials:

“It is a pity that the leadership in Lebanon, instead of producing the gas for the benefit of its citizens, is engaged in fighting internal and external disputes,” he said during a meeting with visiting Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

“I suggest the Lebanese government take the opportunity to improve the Lebanese economy and build a better future for the Lebanese people,” Bennett added.

Draghi did not relate to the Lebanon comments, sticking to expressions of friendship with Israel.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!