The visit of the Adviser to the US Secretary of State for Energy Affairs, Amos Hochstein, dominates the Lebanese crisis scene, and his mission constitutes one of the most important priorities of the US administration with regard to Lebanon. It is a matter of resuming mediation between Lebanon and Israel to demarcate the maritime borders in order to start the exploration and investment of oil. Negotiations have been suspended since last May.
The administration is sending Hochstein due to his previous experience in this field, and the fact that he enjoys the full confidence of President Joe Biden, where he can not only follow up, but also make decisions about the options that Washington will adopt in dealing with the issue of demarcation.
Hochstein also discusses Lebanon’s supply of Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity, and what his administration is doing to facilitate this issue through the mechanism of exceptions to the “Caesar Law” for sanctions on Syria, as this energy will pass through its territory.
A ministerial source confirms to “Sawt Beirut International” that Lebanon has set its vision for the way to deal with its maritime rights, as it will ask a foreign company to provide a scientific opinion on these rights and whether it should adopt point 29 or other points. Point 29 identified by the Lebanese Army is the focus of amending Decree 6433, which was not signed by the President of the Republic. The basic decree was signed in 2012 on the basis of point 23. Based on the scientific opinion that the company will give, Lebanon will take its decision. Prime Minister Najib Mikati will directly request the company to express its opinion. The President of the Republic is slow to sign the decree’s amendment, so that Line 29 may be a negotiation line and not the actual expected demarcation line.
Diplomatic sources confirm that Hochstein aims in his visit to know the extent of the Lebanese seriousness in returning to negotiations, and Lebanon’s perception of its maritime rights and borders, and what border points it will present on the negotiating table. He is waiting for what he will hear in Beirut, and the Lebanese officials are waiting for his new approach to this file. As he will stress the importance of speeding up Lebanon in benefiting from its marine wealth, especially as it is going through a historical crisis, and by investing the energy in the sea, it can save its economy. American companies are also interested in exploring and investing in Lebanon’s marine wealth.
Within the framework of his new approach, there will be no indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel in Naqoura, but rather that Hochstein will adopt the diplomatic shuttle movement between the two countries, conveying messages between Lebanon and Israel.
Based on this move, he will lay new foundations for negotiation to be developed in light of the ideas presented between the two parties. Recourse to the company contributes to clarifying and unifying the Lebanese position. Lebanon is not about to give up any inch of its water rights.
The sources pointed out that Washington sensed from Lebanon, prior to the visit, an openness to discussing that later proposals would allow him to extract his wealth. Lebanon welcomes the resumption of American mediation, and is informed that Hochstein’s current mission will not launch indirect negotiations in Naqoura.
Lebanon is also waiting for the content of the Hochstein talks to take a decision on the form of the Lebanese delegation to negotiate in the next stage, and the results that Lebanon can achieve that constitute specific instructions for its delegation. It is noteworthy that the head of the delegation, Brigadier General Bassam Yassin, has expired, and the renewal of the military is not taking place.
The question is, will another military succeed him, or will he remain the head of the delegation in his civilian capacity. Will other military experts be added to the delegation? It is true that negotiation is technical, but it will be overshadowed by the political choice that the state and the government will take as a whole, and since after Hochstein’s visit, internal contacts will be held to coordinate the Lebanese position.