Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, expressed his fierce opposition on Monday to the US-mediated talks aimed at settling a maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel — in particular lashing out at Washington’s Israeli-born envoy to the negotiations, Amos Hochstein.
Longtime foes Israel and Lebanon have been engaged in US-led talks over the past year aimed at demarcating offshore exclusive economic zones.
The disputed area, hundreds of square miles wide, is thought to contain large deposits of natural gas, a potential game-changer for Lebanon, which is mired in a devastating economic crisis.
“I am saying to the Lebanese state: If you want to continue negotiating, go ahead, but not in Naqoura, and not with Hochstein, Frankenstein, or any other Stein coming to Lebanon,” the terror chief said in an address to the Lebanese government.
“The path of negotiations, and especially via the conspiring, collaborating, and dishonest American broker who supports Israel, will not lead us to any results.”
Nasrallah’s statements appeared to contradict reports earlier this year that he had given the green light to the talks.
Nasrallah warned that if Israel prevented Lebanon from extracting the gas from the disputed areas, Hezbollah would prevent Jerusalem from doing so too.
“I can guarantee you that no international firm would dare come to the Karish gas field or to anywhere else in the disputed area if Hezbollah issues a clear and serious threat in this matter,” he said.
Last October, Nasrallah warned Israel against unilaterally searching for natural gas in the disputed maritime region before any agreement is reached.
Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as being within their exclusive economic zones.
Jerusalem and Beirut had resumed negotiations over their disputed maritime border in 2020 but the process was stalled by Beirut’s claim that the map used by the United Nations in the talks needed modifying.
Lebanese politicians hope that commercially viable hydrocarbon resources off Lebanon’s coast could help lift the debt-ridden country out of an unprecedented financial crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the planet’s worst in modern times. Fuel shortages have ground the country to a halt in recent months.
With a bankrupt state unable to deliver more than an hour or two of electricity a day, individuals, businesses and institutions have relied almost entirely on diesel-powered generators.