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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Beirut - Thaer Abbas

Lebanon Downplays Reports of Israeli Rejection of its Proposals

A fisherman dangles his line to catch fish, in Naqoura, near the Lebanese-Israeli border, southern Lebanon, October 6, 2022. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Lebanese officials downplayed the importance of reports that pointed to Israel’s rejection of Lebanon’s remarks on the draft agreement pertaining to the demarcation of the maritime borders. Lebanese officials said on Friday that they were waiting for US envoy Amos Hochstein to inform them of the Israeli position.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told Asharq Al-Awsat that Lebanon would not take media leaks into consideration, but would wait for the official position that would be conveyed by the American envoy.

“The Lebanese remarks are simple, and they were discussed with the US envoy before they were officially sent,” Berri underlined.

What is happening now is “internal Israeli electoral bickering that does not concern us,” the Lebanese parliament speaker emphasized, noting that his country was waiting for an official response from Hochstein to proceed accordingly.

Information announced by Israel on Thursday about its rejection of the Lebanese comments on the border demarcation agreement sparked confusion amid Lebanese political circles.

Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab, who is assigned by President Michel Aoun to follow up on the negotiations issue, said that Lebanon was “in contact with Hochstein, who is mediating the maritime border agreement with Israel to resolve the outstanding points as the negotiations reach a (decisive) point.”

Bou Saab told Reuters on Thursday that he would only respond to official statements and not to media reports on Israel’s stance.

He said the deal “is 90 percent done, but the remaining 10 percent could make it or break it,” adding that he was in constant contact with the US mediator.

Lebanese ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Lebanon has not yet received any official response.

In this context, Aoun met on Thursday at the Baabda Palace with the Defense Minister in the caretaker government, Maurice Slim.

In remarks during the meeting, the president stressed that the remarks made to the draft agreement guarantee Lebanon’s rights.

A statement issued by the Lebanese Presidency said that discussions tackled the latest information on the ongoing negotiations to demarcate the maritime borders, in light of the observations made by the Lebanese side on the proposal submitted by Hochstein.

It added that the observations “guarantee Lebanon’s rights to explore oil and gas in the specified oil fields in the exclusive economic zone… and prevent any interpretations that do not apply to the framework set by Lebanon for the demarcation process.”

On Tuesday, Lebanon handed the US mediator its response to the proposal, amid prevailing optimism that the agreement could be signed within a few days.

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