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Lebanon ready for talks on long-term border stability, PM says

In World
January 09, 2024

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati told a senior United Nations official on Tuesday that his country was ready for talks on long-term stability on its southern border with Israel.

Mikati’s office said in a statement he met U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix in Beirut to reiterate “Lebanon’s readiness to enter negotiations to achieve a long-term process of stability in southern Lebanon” along the border with Israel.

“We seek permanent stability and call for a lasting peaceful solution – but in return we receive warnings through international envoys about a war on Lebanon,” Mikati said.

“The position I repeat to these delegates is: Do you support the idea of destruction? Is what is happening in Gaza acceptable?”

Lebanese armed group Hezbollah has been trading fire with the Israeli military across Lebanon’s southern border since Hamas militants attacked Israel from the Palestinian enclave of Gaza on Oct. 7.

The border violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee on both sides and raised fears the conflict could spiral.

Israel has said it is giving a chance for diplomacy to prevent Hezbollah firing on people living in its north and to push Hezbollah back from the border, warning that the Israeli army will otherwise take action to achieve these aims.

Hezbollah has said it does not seek full-scale war but would not hold back if Israel starts one.

Mikati’s statement did not specify the type of negotiations to which Lebanon would be open, including whether they would be direct or mediated.

Last year, U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein floated the possibility of talks on drawing the land border between Israel and Lebanon, after having mediated a 2022 deal setting the maritime borders between the two countries.

The current demarcation line between the two countries is known as the Blue Line, a frontier mapped by the United Nations that marks the line to which Israeli forces withdrew when they left south Lebanon in 2000. REUTERS

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