Lebanon speaker: US proposal on Lebanon-Israel disputed waters “unacceptable”

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, left, meets with US Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, at the Lebanese foreign ministry, in Beirut. (AP)
Updated 17 February 2018

Lebanon speaker: US proposal on Lebanon-Israel disputed waters “unacceptable”

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Parliament speaker told a senior US diplomat on Friday that his country rejects current American proposals over the disputed marine border with Israel.
Nabih Berri made the statement after meeting acting Assistant US Secretary of State David Satterfield to discuss the offshore oil-rich Block 9. 
But Lebanon appeared to have returned to its hard line over the proposal made in 2013 by a US diplomat that would give Lebanon around two thirds and Israel around one-third of the triangular area of around 860 square km.
“What is proposed is unacceptable,” Berri said, referring to the Frederick Hof naval line.
When asked about what was raised in the meeting, Ali Hamdan, an advisor to Berri, told Arab News: “We prefer to remain silent about the ideas put forward. Hof plan is unacceptable.”
Satterfield later visited Prime Minister Saad Hariri and held another meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Lebanese Foreign Ministry sources told Arab News that “what is being said about a US proposal to share the disputed block is inaccurate, and the issue is far more complicated.” The sources added that “the American side is trying to crystallize a new proposal regarding the area in which Israel claims to have rights.”
The source said that as well as rejecting the Hof line Lebanon still adheres to its claim to all the sovereign, oil and gas rights of the area, but said the government was keeping an “open mind” to the US ideas being worked on.
The US company Noble Energy discovered in 2009 large oil and gas reserves in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean in the territorial waters of Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and Israel. The area was divided into blocks.
Block 9 is located in the south and its next to the border of the Israeli territorial waters.
Lebanon sent documents and maps proving its ownership of the area to the UN but Israel continued to dispute the boundary.
In Dec. 2017, Lebanon granted licenses for the exploration of oil in Blocks 4 and 9 for the French company Total, Italian ENI, and the Russian Novatek.
This angered Israel due to the sensitivity of the location of this block.
In 2012, Frederick Hof pledged that the US administration would convince Israel of the temporary solution that would not hinder the interest of the Israeli and Lebanese sides in starting to explore their gas and oil resources.
In 2013, the US sent US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Amos Hochstein to Lebanon to try to work out a formula for a compromise.
Hochstein proposed drawing a provisional blue maritime line keeping the disputed area along this line from the Lebanese and Israeli sides outside the exploration operations until a final demarcation agreement is reached. 
In the meantime, investment in other undisputed areas could start within the context of the mutually agreed Blue Line understanding.
Hof gave another American proposal offering Lebanon 500 square km  and Israel 360 square km. Lebanon agreed to take the 500 square km  but refused to give up the 360 square km to Israel.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday that the US must accept Lebanon’s demands over the border disputes with Israel and vowed it was ready to act against Israel if necessary, Reuters reported.
“The state must have a strong and firm position,” the leader of the Iran-backed movement said.
Satterfield had arrived in Beirut as part of the delegation traveling with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his regional tour. But the diplomat stayed on after Tillerson left to work on a resolution to the dispute.
Satterfield, a former ambassador to Lebanon, was expected to travel to Israel for further talks.
Official sources told Arab News that Satterfield may return to Lebanon a second time after visiting Israel “if he carries constructive proposals.”


Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

  • Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption

BEIRUT: Three lawmakers and members of Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc will not abide by its decision to name a new prime minister on Monday. 

Meanwhile, activists in the civil movement are holding meetings to announce a general strike and the blocking of roads on Monday in protest over reports that the new government will not include technocrats.

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption. He later said he would not agree to head a new government unless it consisted of technocrats.

Lawmaker Neemat Frem urged citizens to provide him with the name of their favorite candidate to head the new government, “for you are the primary source of authority, and it is my duty to convey your voice in the binding parliamentary consultations.”

Lawmaker Chamel Roukoz said he will not nominate anyone for the position of prime minister.

Lawmaker Michel Daher declared his intention to boycott the parliamentary consultations if Al-Khatib is the only candidate.

Aoun assured a delegation of British financial and investment institutions, and US bank Morgan Stanley, that binding parliamentary consultations will take place on Monday to form a new government, which will help Lebanon’s friends launch agreed-to development projects.

“The new government’s priority will be to address the economic and financial conditions as soon as it is formed,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

On Friday, Hariri sent letters to the leaders of a number of countries with good relations with Lebanon. 

He asked them to help Lebanon secure credit to import goods from these countries, in order to ensure food security and availability of raw materials for production in various sectors.

His media office said the move “is part of his efforts to address the shortage of financial liquidity, and to secure procuring the basic import requirements for citizens.”

Among the leaders Hariri wrote to are Saudi Arabia’s King Salman; the presidents of France, Russia, Egypt and Turkey; the prime ministers of China and Italy; and the US secretary of state.

On Dec. 11, Paris is due to host a meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon. Reuters quoted a European source as saying: “France has already sent invitations to attend the group meeting.”

Protesters continued their sit-ins in front of government institutions in Nabatieh, Zahle and Saida.

In Tripoli, protesters blocked the city’s main roads, which were eventually reopened by the army.

In Akkar, protesters raided public institutions and called for an “independent government that fights corruption, restores looted funds, and rescues the economic situation and living conditions from total collapse.”

Lebanese designer Robert Abi Nader canceled a fashion show that was due to be organized in Downtown Beirut, where protesters are gathering. 

Abi Nader said he intended through his show to express support for the protests by designing a special outfit called “the bride of the revolution,” and revenues were to be dedicated to families in need.