Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad (Right) with US mediator Amos Hochstein (Left). (Photo credit: Anwar AMRO / AFP)
According to recent reports, progress to reach a deal between Israel and Lebanon on the country’s maritime issue is slow and both countries are unlikely to reach an agreeable outcome ahead of Hezbollah’s deadline in September.
Amos Hochstein, Presidential Energy advisor, who is mediating the talks between Israel and Lebanon will not deliver a finalized solution nor a draft for a maritime agreement, according to Al-Manar TV reported on 5 August.
Instead, the US mediator will rely on Lebanese and Israeli officials to revise their standpoints and demands ahead of any possible meeting to sign an agreement in the border town of Al-Naqoura.
Hochstein will leave for Paris in two days and then head to Tel Aviv in a bid to discuss his vision for a solution with Lapid regarding Israel’s demands for financial compensation. From there, the US envoy will fly to Beirut to meet with Lebanese officials overseeing the maritime dispute negotiations.
The US intends for the visit to be seen as a goodwill gesture and display the seriousness of the Biden administration in regards to the relationship with both countries.
Earlier on 31 August, Biden emphasized “the importance of concluding the maritime boundary negotiations between Israel and Lebanon in the coming weeks,” in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
The Deputy Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Elias Bou Saab, informed President Michel Aoun of Hochstein’s plans in response to recent developments.
Bou Saab added that “most media reports about the mediator’s mission are not accurate and are based on speculation.”
According to reports, both Israel and Lebanon are keeping any progress on the agreement behind closed curtains.
However, recent leaks published by Israeli media revealed that there is no “imminent agreement,” especially in light of the current political deadlock in Israel.
Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Akhbar reported that Israel has placed more emphasis on its intentions to postpone the agreement until after the elections in November.
Israel is aiming for a certain understanding to be formulated during Hochstein’s upcoming visit to Lebanon that would prevent a confrontation with Hezbollah.
However, delays will likely not be taken with ease by Hezbollah, whose recent video publication reiterated the group’s intention to not accept further delays.
The Secretary General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah proclaimed that the resistance group is “standing up in defense of Lebanon’s oil and gas resources.”
In a recent speech, Nasralla proclaimed that the situation in Lebanon is heading towards something “worse than war,” and that “martyrdom [in a conflict to secure Lebanon’s resources] is better than death from hunger or economic collapse.”
Hezbollah assesses that Israel’s attempt to postpone the agreement will lead to a bigger dilemma as Aoun’s presidential term ends in two months.