Aoun to Tillerson: Lebanon is sticking to its borders, rejects Israeli claims over disputed area

Photo of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson waiting to meet Lebanon FM in Presidential palace in Beirut
Updated 15 February 2018
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Aoun to Tillerson: Lebanon is sticking to its borders, rejects Israeli claims over disputed area

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Lebanon is sticking to its internationally recognised borders Thursday and rejected Israeli claims over a disputed area in Lebanese waters.
During a brief stopover in Beirut as part of a regional trip, he added that Lebanon was committed to preserving calm on its southern border and urged Washington to play an “effective role” to help resolve Beirut’s land and maritime disputes with Israel.
Aoun also urged the United States to “work on preventing Israel from continuing its assaults on Lebanese sovereignty” by land and sea, a statement from the presidency said. 
Israel has recently escalated its threats over Lebanon's invitation for offshore gas exploration bids along the countries' maritime border claiming that Lebanon will be drilling in areas owned by Israel. Lebanese officials deny the Israeli statements, saying the area where the country plans to drill belongs to Lebanon.
The long-standing dispute resurfaced recently as Lebanon signed a deal with an international consortium to start exploratory offshore drilling next year.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described the exploration tender as " provocative" and suggested that Lebanon had put out invitations for bids from international groups for a gas field "which is by all accounts ours."
There are over 800 square kilometers (300 square miles) of waters claimed by the two countries. US officials have previously tried to mediate the dispute, including most recently by David Satterfield, the US acting assistance secretary of state who visited the border area in south Lebanon last week, and was accompanying Tillerson on Thursday.
 


Migrant killed during Libya disembarkation: UN

Updated 21 min 38 sec ago

Migrant killed during Libya disembarkation: UN

  • ‘This was tragedy waiting to happen’: International Organization for Migrationspokesman Leonard Doyle
  • IOM demands ‘immediate action ... to put an end to the suffering of civilians in Libya, especially detained migrants’

GENEVA: A Sudanese man was shot and killed Thursday as he and other migrants returned to shore by the Libyan Coast Guard tried to resist being sent back to detention, the UN said.
The International Organization for Migration strongly condemned the incident and demanded that Libyan authorities investigate and bring those responsible to justice.
“This was tragedy waiting to happen,” IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle said in a statement.
“The use of live bullets against unarmed vulnerable civilians, men, women and children alike, is unacceptable under any circumstances and raises alarms over the safety of migrants and humanitarian staff,” he added.
The UN agency said its staff had been on site at the Abusitta Disembarkation point in Tripoli when as many as 103 migrants returned to shore resisted being sent back to Libyan detention centers.
When several migrants tried to run away from the guards, “armed men began shooting into the air,” and one migrant was hit by a bullet in the stomach, according to the IOM staff accounts.
“Despite immediately receiving medical aid on the spot by an IOM doctor and then being transferred to a nearby clinic, he died two hours after admission,” the agency said.
The man’s death, it said, stood as “a stark reminder of the grim conditions faced by migrants picked up by the Coast Guard after paying smugglers to take them to Europe.”
The UN and aid groups have warned that rescued migrants returned to Libya face rampant human rights abuses in both official and illegal centers in the war-ravaged country.
According to the UN, some 5,000 migrant women, children and men remain detained in inhumane conditions in Libya — more than 3,000 of them in areas of active conflict.
In June, an airstrike on the Tajoura detention center killed 53 migrants, including six children.
“That facility remains operational to this day, despite persistent calls to end the arbitrary detention of migrants,” IOM said.
“Alternatives to detention must be found,” it said, stressing that the “increasing reports of abuse and human trafficking from detention centers are truly alarming.”
IOM demanded “immediate action ... to put an end to the suffering of civilians in Libya, especially detained migrants.”