Lebanon Firm on Maritime Deal Amid Reported U.S. Pressure to Drop Demands

Lebanon seemed to be sticking firm to its stance on the proposed maritime deal with Israel despite reported pressure from the Biden administration to drop some of its demands.

The Hezbollah-linked Al-Akhbar newspaper on Friday quoted a Lebanese official telling U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein that “Lebanon does not intend to retract its comments” on the maritime deal.

The unnamed Lebanese official added that “it’s on the U.S. to fulfill its promises and manage the issue with Israel.”

Despite indications earlier this week that the deal was close to being sealed, it has since appeared to falter as Lebanese negotiators insist on certain changes that have been rejected by Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

According to Kan News, the Biden administration was pressing Lebanon to drop some of its demands as Hochstein remained in direct contact with both sides.

In comments to the broadcaster, an Israeli official described the efforts as an attempt to resuscitate the talks themselves.

Although the deal’s exact points of contention remain unconfirmed, Al-Akhbar reported Tuesday that Beirut did not agree to recognize Israel’s buoy-marked boundary — which Israel unilaterally placed five kilometers off the coast of the northern town of Rosh Hanikra in 2000 — as an international border.

The report also claimed Beirut was against the idea of demarcating a land border as part of the agreement and maintained that the issue must instead be reserved for discussions with the United Nations.

On Thursday, as the maritime deal stalled, Defense Minister Benny Gantz placed IDF forces on alert after holding a situation assessment with military chief Aviv Kochavi.

“The defense minister directed the IDF to prepare for a scenario of escalation in the north, both offensively and defensively, given the developments in the negotiations on the maritime border,” a statement from Gantz’s office said.

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