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Washington to Facilitate Lebanese-Israeli Talks to Demarcate Sea Border

Washington to Facilitate Lebanese-Israeli Talks to Demarcate Sea Border

Saturday, 18 May, 2019 - 07:15
Lebanese President Michel Aoun meets with US Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield in Beirut. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut - Khalil Fleihan
The United States agreed to Lebanon’s request to facilitate talks with Israel to solve a maritime border dispute between the two countries as they seek to exploit their offshore oil and gas wealth.

Washington has dispatched US Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield to Beirut, where he presented himself to officials as a “facilitator,” not a “mediator”, in the dispute.

A Lebanese ambassador, who participated in the peace talks held in Madrid, explained to Asharq Al-Awsat the difference between the two terms.

“A facilitator is someone who helps parties find a solution to their disputes or prevent a conflict before it happens,” he said.

The facilitator is not a principle part of the negotiations and he should remain completely neutral, similar to a mediator, he explained.

An official, who met Satterfield in Beirut, said Friday that he expected the US official’s role to be more than a facilitator in light of Tel Aviv’s violations in the exclusive economic zone between Lebanon and Israel.

“Israel occupies parts of Lebanese territories by the force of arms and it tried to steal a large quantity of gas from that area,” the official said.

“We have to wait for the outcome of Satterfield’s talks with Tel Aviv and accordingly, we will know if Israel accepts the negotiation mechanism suggested by Lebanon in that regard,” the official said.

Beirut proposed that negotiations with Tel Aviv be held under the patronage of the UN and supervision of the US, similar to the demarcation of the land border.

In a related development, Lebanese officials asked Satterfield whether the US would include Lebanon in any possible military attacks against Hezbollah in wake of the mounting tensions with Iran.

However, the US official failed to offer clear replies regarding these inquiries.

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