Lebanon receives Israeli response to border demarcation

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, right, who is attempting to mediate a border dispute between Lebanon and Israel, meets with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil at the Lebanese foreign ministry in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (AP)
Updated 28 May 2019

Lebanon receives Israeli response to border demarcation

  • Lebanese Foreign Ministry sources said after Satterfield’s meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil that the atmosphere was “positive”

BEIRUT: David Satterfield, deputy US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, conveyed Israel’s response to Lebanon regarding negotiations on border demarcation.

Sources at the Lebanese prime minister’s office said negotiations will focus on demarcating the maritime border, and will also tackle disputed points on the Blue Line, a border demarcation published by the UN in June 2000 to determine whether Israel had fully withdrawn from Lebanon. There are 13 disputed points on the Blue Line.

Lebanese Foreign Ministry sources said after Satterfield’s meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil that the atmosphere was “positive.”

They added that the final touches were being put on the form of negotiations and the role of concerned parties, including the UN, Lebanon, Israel and the US. Satterfield also met with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Lebanon’s presidential media office said President Michel Aoun on Monday discussed with Jan Kubis, the UN special coordinator in Lebanon, the UN’s role “in helping to demarcate the southern Lebanese border.”

Lebanon delivered a proposal to Satterfield stressing its “determination to demarcate the maritime border through the tripartite commission originally formed in April 1996, as was done for the Blue Line after liberation in 2000, which is to be completed by a White Line in the sea.”

Beirut said it rejected “any direct Israeli-Lebanese negotiations,” and “demanded negotiations involving officers from Lebanon, Israel and the United Nations, with the participation of topographic and oil experts. The function of the tripartite committee is to demarcate the maritime line. There is no objection to the participation of American diplomats in the tripartite demarcation, provided that they are neutral.”

The head of the union of workers in the gas and exploration sector in Lebanon, Maroun Al-Khouli, said: “Solving this problem with Israel will establish a significant renaissance in Lebanon’s investment in its oil resources in the maritime economic zone, especially as Lebanon is preparing to begin drilling for oil and gas in blocks 4 and 9 in its territorial waters.”

He added: “This will also help large companies, including American companies, to enter the field of exploration in the second licensing cycle, which will be launched later.”


UN urged to prevent Houthi oil ‘disaster’

Updated 27 min 15 sec ago

UN urged to prevent Houthi oil ‘disaster’

  • The Houthis have refused for more than 5 years to allow international engineers to board the Safer to carry out essential repairs
  • The Houthis have rejected all independent international requests to board the vessel

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government has urged the UN Security Council to intervene to prevent a derelict tanker from leaking more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea.

The FSO Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. The vessel fell into the hands of Iran-backed Houthi militias in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around the port city of Hodeidah.

The Houthis have refused for more than 5 years to allow international engineers to board the Safer to carry out essential repairs, and as the vessel’s condition deteriorates there are fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out.

An oil leak from the Safer’s tanks would be “one of the biggest environmental disasters in the region and the world,” Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadrami told Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s permanent representative at the UN and president of the Security Council.

The Houthis have rejected all independent international requests to board the vessel, including the latest one from the UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths, who demanded access for an international technical team.

Anwar Al-Ameri, head of the government oil company in Hodeidah, said an oil spill from the Safer would be more destructive to the environment than the damage caused by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989. “A looming environmental disaster is awaiting the Red Sea countries if the oil tanker Safer is destroyed,” Al-Ameri said.

Michael Aron, UK ambassador to Yemen, has also warned of a potential catastrophe. “The threat to the environment in the Red Sea is enormous, and will impact on all the countries who share this coastline,” he said.

“We urgently need to allow UN experts to board the craft, assess its condition and take the necessary steps to secure the vessel and prevent the oil from leaking.”

Yemeni activists, politicians and government officials have launched a campaign on social media aimed at focusing attention on the derelict vessel and pressing the international community to act quickly to safe Yemen from disaster.

Mohammed Al-Omada, head of the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms, said the Houthis were using the vessel to blackmail the legitimate government into offering concessions in peace talks brokered by the UN Yemen envoy, and to enable them to sell the vessel’s oil.

“We call on the international community to take swift and urgent measures to prevent this serious environmental catastrophe from happening,” he said.