US envoy visits Beirut, mediating in Lebanon-Israel dispute

Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Satterfield, is in Beirut as part of a US shuttle diplomacy effort to resolve tensions between Israel and Lebanon over a border wall and energy drilling in disputed waters. (Reuters)
Updated 21 February 2018

US envoy visits Beirut, mediating in Lebanon-Israel dispute

BEIRUT: A senior US diplomat met Lebanon’s foreign minister on Wednesday in Beirut as part of a US shuttle diplomacy effort to resolve tensions between Israel and Lebanon over a border wall and energy drilling in disputed waters.
Disputes over Israeli construction of the border wall, Lebanon’s start of oil and gas exploration at sea and the growing arsenal of Lebanon’s Iran-backed group Hezbollah have caused a spike in tensions between Lebanon and Israel, both friends of the United States that regard each other as enemies.
Lebanon this month signed its first offshore energy exploration and production agreements with a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek. One of two blocks given to the consortium, Block 9, contains waters claimed by Israel.
, has been shuttling back and forth between Israel and Lebanon in a bid to resolve the disputes.
He met Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Wednesday in Beirut. The two had last met on Friday, after which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated Lebanon’s rejection of US proposals to resolve the maritime dispute as “unacceptable.”
This was an apparent reference to a maritime demarcation line proposed by US diplomat Frederic Hof in 2012, which would give Lebanon around two-thirds and Israel around one-third of a disputed triangular area of sea of around 860 sq km (330 square miles).
A senior Lebanese government source said Satterfield did not come with any new plan, and talks still revolve around the Hof line.
A source in the foreign ministry said he discussed the disputed area, how Lebanon can preserve its rights and how to keep exploration and drilling from being affected.
Satterfield left without making any public comments.
The US Embassy in Lebanon said Satterfield “continues to engage” on regional issues and on helping Lebanon develop its resources in agreement with its neighbors.


Protesters regain control of third bridge in Baghdad

Updated 17 November 2019

Protesters regain control of third bridge in Baghdad

  • Security forces used tear gas and stun bombs to prevent protesters from getting right across Ahrar Bridge in central Baghdad
  • More than 300 people have been killed since the start of mass unrest in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Iraqi protesters regained control of a third bridge leading to Baghdad’s Green Zone on Sunday, taking further ground in the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations in decades.
Security forces used tear gas and stun bombs to prevent protesters from getting right across Ahrar Bridge in central Baghdad, part of a weeks-long attempt to disrupt traffic and reach the Green Zone housing government ministry and embassies.
Protesters made a barricade of old cabinets, trash cans and metal sheeting on the bridge while security forces took positions behind blast walls installed to prevent protesters from crossing to the other side. Protesters who choked on the tear gas were evacuated by tuk-tuk, a Reuters cameraman said.
On Saturday, Iraqi demonstrators reoccupied part of adjacent Sinak Bridge and a nearby tall building in Baghdad that security forces had pushed them away from a week before. They have held a third bridge, Jamhuriya, since October 25.
More than 300 people have been killed since the start of mass unrest in Baghdad and southern Iraq in early October, the largest demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests.
In Basra in the south, dozens of protesters burned tires and briefly blocked some roads on Sunday, before police managed to restore control and reopen them, police said.
The unrest has shattered the relative calm that followed the defeat of Islamic State in 2017.