BEIRUT, Aug. 1, 2022 (Xinhua) The US mediator in the indirect negotiations to demarcate Lebanon’s maritime border with Israel, Amos Hochstein, expressed optimism on “continuing the progress” made in this file over the past weeks.
This came in a statement by Hochstein after talks he held with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
“I am waiting for my return and soon to the region to finish this file and reach a conclusion,” Hochstein said.
During the meeting, Hochstein presented to the Lebanese side, according to a statement issued by the Lebanese presidency, “the outcome of the consultations he held with Israeli officials regarding the issue of demarcating the southern maritime borders, and listened to a unified Lebanese position in accordance with the declared Lebanese constants.”
After the meeting, Berri was asked whether the meeting was positive. He only said, “God willing, it is good.” As for Mikati, he did not make any statement, contenting himself with a positive gesture from his hand.
As for Parliament Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab, who attended the meeting, he stressed that “the atmosphere is positive, the gap in the differences in this file has narrowed, and the time period separating us from the return of the American mediator to Beirut will be short.”
He pointed out that “everyone was satisfied, and we are waiting for the achievement of what was discussed during the meeting, and God willing, we will see a result in the next few weeks in this field.”
Hochstein met earlier today with the caretaker foreign minister, Abdullah Bouhabib, and yesterday, after his arrival in Beirut, with the Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, the Director of Public Security, Major General Jamil al-Sayed, and Energy Minister Walid Fayyad.
After the meeting, Fayyad announced that the American mediator had presented a new proposal to delineate the common maritime borders with Israel.
Lebanon and Israel, under the auspices of the United Nations and mediated by Washington, held five rounds of indirect negotiations between October 2020 and May 2021 to discuss the demarcation of the maritime border, but the negotiations were frozen due to differences over technical criteria to complete the demarcation.
Negotiations began regarding a disputed marine area in the Mediterranean, amounting to 860 square kilometers, believed to contain quantities of oil and gas, but Lebanon, based on recent legal and geographic studies, reported that the disputed area is 2,290 square kilometers, which Israel rejects.
On June 14, Lebanon invited the American mediator, Hochstein, to visit Beirut to discuss the completion of the maritime border negotiations with Israel, after the latter sent on June 5 a platform to extract gas to the Karish field, which Lebanon considers a disputed area. months ago regarding the demarcation in preparation for presenting it to Israel.
In a recent televised speech, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah indicated that if Lebanon is prevented from benefiting from its oil wealth, Israel will not be able to extract or sell gas and oil.
He added that if matters reach the negative conclusions in the negotiations to demarcate the southern maritime borders of Lebanon, his party will not stop at the Karish field borders, but will establish what he described as “the post-Karesh equation.”
After Israel shot down 3 drones launched by Hezbollah towards the Karish field on July 2, the Lebanese government renewed its support for the US mediator’s efforts to demarcate the border, considering that any action outside the diplomatic context is “unacceptable.”
Nasrallah had threatened in a televised speech on June 9 that the party was militarily and financially able to prevent Israel from extracting oil and gas from the Karish field, stressing that “all the enemy’s measures cannot protect the floating platform or the extraction process.”