Conflicting reports have emerged on whether Lebanon and Israel will manage to quickly reach a sea border demarcation deal in the wake of U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein’s visit to Lebanon earlier this week.
In remarks to al-Liwaa newspaper published Thursday, Western diplomatic sources ruled out an imminent agreement, “as some are promoting,” expecting the U.S. mediation to be continued after the election of a successor to President Michel Aoun, “because the time remaining in his tenure is very short.”
“Several months have passed since the U.S. mediator presented his proposals last February, and the Lebanese Presidency officials did not make use of this time to speed up the steps to finalize this file,” the sources added.
Noting that the “near-unanimous” Lebanese response that has been informed to Hochstein will certainly give an impetus to the negotiations, the sources pointed out that “some of its aspects contradict with the suggestions that were carried by the U.S. mediator in the past, and also with the framework agreement that was reached between Speaker Nabih Berri and the U.S. side following years of American mediation.”
“This means that it will be the subject of lengthy deliberations with Israel,” the sources added.
“Therefore, the file will take longer than expected, and with the preoccupation of the U.S. administration with the global oil problems due to the war in Ukraine, the entire file is expected to be postponed to the tenure of the new U.S. administration,” the sources went on to say.
Other Western diplomatic sources meanwhile told another Lebanese newspaper, al-Joumhouria, that Hochstein’s visit reflected “Washington’s seriousness about reaching a quick agreement between Lebanon and Israel over their maritime border.”
“The core meaning of this visit was not to waste more precious time for Lebanon and Israel, and what has leaked about the outcome of Hochstein’s talks in Beirut is that they paved the way for the return of the Lebanese and Israeli sides to the negotiations table,” the sources said.
“We hope this will happen in the near future, in light of its benefit to Lebanon and Israel,” the sources added.