Lebanon PM Chides Unofficial Moves in Israel Row After Hezbollah Sends Drones

An Israeli Navy vessel patrols in the Mediterranean Sea, while Lebanon and Israel are being called to resume indirect talks over their disputed maritime border with U.S. mediation, off the southern town of Naqoura, June 6. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari, File)

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Prime Minister on Monday criticized as risky and unacceptable any unofficial dealings over its sea border row with Israel, after the powerful Hezbollah movement sent three drones towards an Israeli gas rig that were shot down.

Hezbollah launched its operation on Saturday following long-standing but so far fruitless U.S.-mediated efforts to agree on a maritime border between the two countries near an area where Israel has made large natural gas discoveries.

“Lebanon considers that any action outside the framework of the state’s responsibility, and the diplomatic context in which the negotiations are happening, is unacceptable and exposes [Lebanon] to unnecessary risks,” a statement by the office of Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati’s office said.

The statement was issued following a meeting between Mikati and Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib.

The statement called for “everyone, without exception” to stand behind the Lebanese state in the negotiation process, which it said had reached “advanced stages.”

Hezbollah said on Saturday the drones, launched towards the Karish gas field in waters claimed by both countries, had successfully carried out a reconnaissance mission and said “the message was delivered.”

The Israeli military said it had intercepted the drones, the first time an Israeli naval ship had downed an incoming target.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said after the incident that Hezbollah was “preventing the state of Lebanon from reaching an agreement regarding maritime borders.”

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