Lebanon was scheduled to pay a visit to American envoy for energy affairs, Amos Hochstein, before the middle of this month, but the travel ban imposed by the American government on its personnel as a result of COVID-19 forced the visit to be postponed to a later date, but not long ago.
Western diplomatic sources expected to Sawt Beirut International that Hochstein will have a positive atmosphere obtained through his visit to Israel, which followed his visit to Lebanon last fall, about seeking to play a role in the issue of demarcating the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel. Therefore, his expected visit to Beirut in the next phase aims to convey a positive message that he touched in his meetings with Israeli officials.
At this time, Lebanon, according to the sources, has to make up its mind regarding unifying its official position on the line that it adheres to in terms of freedom of movement that it will not abandon at all costs. On the one hand, instructions are given to the negotiating delegation to adhere to an area of 2,290 square kilometers according to point 29. On the other hand, the President of the Republic does not sign Decree 6435 that preserves this right, and Hochstein was informed during his visit to Lebanon that Line 29 is a negotiating line, and that Lebanon may retreat from it in order to facilitate the task of American mediation, given that Washington stresses the demarcation and the need for Lebanon to benefit from its oil wealth as soon as possible.
Bringing the demarcation issue back to the forefront by the US administration is one of the things it deems a sign of focusing on Lebanon’s stability and avoiding its slide into disorder, despite the country’s economic disaster and the challenges the government confronts in restoring it. The government is well-aware of the obstructing party. Thus, the government’s survival and controlling the obstacles as much as possible seems essential while awaiting the crystallization of the scene in the region in light of the results of the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file.
It is expected that the US delegation will continue its shuttle tours between Lebanon and Israel before taking a position regarding the indirect negotiations between the Lebanese and Israeli parties at the United Nations headquarters in Naqoura. Since Lebanon must also make up its mind regarding the negotiating delegation, and any political position for Lebanon regarding the maritime borders it accepts, the Lebanese army will avoid responsibility for the decisions of the political authority in the upcoming talks. It will also limit the talks on the Lebanese side to the executive authority: the Presidency of the Republic, the Presidency of the Government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and to withdraw the demarcation file from the internal political investment.
Hochstein will talk about accelerating Lebanon’s benefit from Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity through Syria, and about the way in which exceptions will be made from “Caesar’s Law” sanctions after a Lebanese demand was made for Washington to provide stronger guarantees to the Egyptians in order to start delivering Lebanon Egyptian gas. Lebanon also recently demanded that the US administration conduct an assessment of the sanctions in general, whether they affect the Lebanese people or not.
The sources indicate that the other American indicator regarding concern for Lebanon’s stability and economic recovery is its call for commitment to negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and carrying out the required reforms for that.