Lebanese President: Ongoing Contacts to Stop ‘Israeli Greed’

Lebanese President: Ongoing Contacts to Stop ‘Israeli Greed’

Thursday, 8 February, 2018 - 11:15
President Michel Aoun chairs the cabinet session at Baabda Palace. Dalati and Nohra photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Thursday that talks were underway "to prevent Israeli greed" amid a dispute over a cement wall on the two countries’ borders and an offshore energy block.

"Communications are ongoing through the United Nations and friendly states to handle this issue... hoping that Israel does not escalate," Aoun said as he chaired a cabinet session at Baabda Palace.

"We will confront any attack" on Lebanon's territory or waters, he said.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri also told cabinet ministers that “political parties remain united against Israeli challenges.”

Meanwhile, a senior Lebanese government official said a US envoy has assured Lebanese officials that Israel does not want an escalation over a dispute about the border wall.

"Regarding the visit of the American envoy, he held talks regarding the wall with Israel and said there is no call for concern and there is no direction towards escalation. He assured the Lebanese that Israel does not want escalation," the senior Lebanese government official told Reuters.

On Wednesday, Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council, which is the country's top security body, instructed the army to confront Israel if it goes ahead with its plans to build the cement border wall, labeling it as an "aggression" against its sovereignty.

Israel's military said all work was "being carried out in sovereign Israeli territory." Parts of the militarized border have been fenced off for years.

Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon known as UNIFIL, said the force is "fully engaged with both parties in order to find common solutions."

"Any work that is conducted along the Blue Line should be predictable and also coordinated with UNIFIL in order to prevent misunderstanding and decrease tension," he told The Associated Press.

Lebanese and Israeli military officials met Monday to discuss the issues in regular UN-sponsored talks. Tenenti said both parties demonstrated their commitment to preserve stability.

The renewed focus on the wall comes as the two sides spar over Lebanon's plans to explore for oil and gas in the so-called Block 9 which lies in waters eyed by both sides.

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