Israeli threats unite the Lebanese

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (C) meets with Prime minister  Saad al-Hariri (R) and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 18, 2016. Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (C) meets with Prime minister Saad al-Hariri (R) and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 18, 2016. Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters
Lebanese top officials met Monday at Baabda Presidential Palace to discuss efforts to defend Lebanon’s sovereignty against “Israeli aggression” ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Lebanon Wednesday.

The meeting, which brought together President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, touched on Israel’s construction of a wall along Lebanon’s southern border among other threats.

Lebanon says the wall encroaches on Lebanese territory in 13 locations along the Blue Line, where the United Nations demarcated Israel’s military withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. Israel has said the wall is entirely within its territory.

Following the meeting, Hariri maintained that “discussions with the international community are ongoing in order to preserve Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

A government source told Annahar that the tripartite meeting also “looked into acting assistant U.S. secretary of state David Satterfield’s proposal” to resolve a Lebanese-Israeli dispute over an 860-sq km maritime area.

Satterfield, who was in Israel before visiting Lebanon last week on a mediation mission, assured Hariri that Israel does not seek to escalate matters further.

The 860-sq km disputed area extends along the edge of three of the 10 blocks that form Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

lebanon offshore oil, gas blocksOn Friday, Lebanon signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration agreements with an international consortium of energy companies, comprising France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek. The consortium will drill exploratory wells in blocks 4 and 9 of Lebanon’s EEZ. A small section, comprising 8 percent of block 9 is part of the disputed triangular area, according to Total.

Israel claims Lebanon had put out invitations for bids for a gas field “which is by all accounts ours.”

The surge in hostile rhetoric comes as Lebanon gears up to take part in an international aid conference in Rome on March 15, aimed at bolstering support for the country’s army and security agencies.