WED 21 - 8 - 2019
Date: May 10, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Aoun presents border stance ahead of U.S. envoy’s visit
Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Thursday presented the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon with a “unified” stance on the country’s border dispute with Israel, ahead of an expected visit to Beirut by a senior American envoy. “There has been a revival to the land and maritime border demarcation progress after it had been put on hold,” a political source told The Daily Star.

Aoun presented Ambassador Elizabeth Richard with the new proposals during a meeting at Baabda Palace, the president’s office said, without releasing any details.

Washington previously said it was ready to mediate and find a solution, but that Lebanese leaders needed a uniform stance before the country could proceed.

Late last Monday, Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri met in Baabda and agreed on a “unified” stance, according to a source from Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry. Previous reports suggested that Berri, who supports one, all-inclusive solution to the land and maritime dispute, unlike Aoun and Hariri, who advocate separating the two, was holding up the decision, but the source downplayed this.

Following last Monday’s progress among the three leaders, the political source said the new stance would be discussed with David Satterfield, the acting U.S. assistant secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs next week.

A Baabda Palace source said the position presented by Aoun Thursday “takes into account the reasons that delayed the negotiations previously and present alternatives.”

This source added, “All of the [new ideas] are within the [parameters] of national principles agreed upon between the three leaders of the state.” Richard also met with Berri Thursday, who told her Lebanon had a “unified” position on border demarcation.

The political source said the next step is to wait for an answer. Asked whether this means the U.S. would relay the proposals to Israel, the source said: “They’re one in the same, so yes, we’ll wait for them to get back to us.”

Aoun and Berri have called for the official demarcation of the southern maritime border between Lebanon and Israel. In late March, Aoun asked U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to assist with the process and “convince” Israel to cooperate with Lebanon on the matter.

Berri has said Lebanon would agree to mark its borders with Israel under U.N. supervision via the same mechanism that demarcates the Blue Line land border. The issue of delineating the maritime border has become more pressing in recent years as Lebanon prepares to embark on oil and gas exploration projects in the Mediterranean Sea. One of the two areas set out for exploration sits partially in disputed territory.

As for the land border, the political source said Lebanon has already made its proposal. “It’s now on Israel to respond.” The Baabda Palace source said Thursday’s options “preserve sovereignty, independence and the right of Lebanon to invest in its own wealth of gas and oil.”

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