Trump's Mideast Peace Plan Reaping Rewards As Lebanon & Israel Hash Out Agreement

Written By BlabberBuzz | Thursday, 15 October 2020 20:30

Lebanon's parliament speaker met Thursday with a traveling U.S. official, a day after Beirut began complicated negotiations with Israel over their debated maritime border.

David Schenker, a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, the best American diplomat for the Middle East, did not talk to reporters after he met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Berri has been the main Lebanese official dealing with U.S. mediators concerning the conflict with Israel over the past decade.

On Wednesday, Schenker visited the opening session of U.S.-mediated talks between Lebanon and Israel in a U.N. compound in the border area recognized as Ras Naqoura. A joint report released Wednesday by the U.S. State Department and Jan Kubis, the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, said the Israeli and Lebanese teams "held productive talks and reaffirmed their commitment to continue negotiations later this month."

Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic connections and are technically in a position of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as being inside their own independent economic zones.

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Israel has already produced a natural gas industry elsewhere in its economic waters, and Lebanon hopes oil and gas developments in its regional waters will help it defeat the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.

Lebanon's economic crisis is the outcome of ongoing corruption and mismanagement but has been dramatically worsened by the coronavirus pandemic as well as a huge explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4, which killed and injured many and caused damage worth billions of dollars.

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Schenker attended Beirut after the blast and engaged with members of Lebanon's civil society. He did not talk with politicians at that time.

The international community has announced it will not help Lebanon get out of its financial crisis before it performs major reforms, on top of fighting corruption.

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President Michel Aoun was scheduled to hold binding consultations with members of parliament on Thursday to elect a new prime minister; though, he delayed it for a week at the last minute.

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A top nominee for the post was former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He retired in October last year, days after nationwide riots burst out, demanding an end to the rule of the political class that's got the country to the verge of bankruptcy.

On Wednesday, Hariri lost the backing of the two largest Christian blocs in parliament.

The Middle Eastern journalists in the U.S. have already Twitted about the matter; Memri Reports has written: "Lebanese journalists, politicians urge their country to follow the example of the #UAE and #Bahrain and advance towards peace with #Israel."

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