Lebanese president rejects Israeli war threats as US envoy in Beirut for talks

Lebanese president rejects Israeli war threats as US envoy in Beirut for talks
Lebanon's president says his country refuses to compromise over its rights in oil and gas exploration, rejecting threats made by Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi of an 'unprecedented' war on Lebanon
3 min read
14 June, 2022
Lebanon and Israel are locked in a dispute over demarcating their maritime border in gas-rich waters [Getty]

President Michel Aoun has expressed Lebanon’s complete rejection of Israeli threats after Israel’s army chief warned of a devastating war on the country, in light of heightening tensions over a maritime gas dispute.

"The Israeli enemy is acting in violation of international laws and resolutions, taking advantage of the international community's silence about its violations of Security Council resolutions," Aoun said as he met a delegation of independent lawmakers at the Baabda Presidential Palace on Monday.

Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi on Sunday warned that the next war in Lebanon would be like no other, warning of unprecedented bombing of the crisis-stricken country.

He said the Israeli army had pinned thousands of targets belonging to "the enemy."

Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah last fought a 34-day war in the summer of 2006.

Aoun stressed that making compromises to invest in Lebanon’s oil and gas wealth was out of the question, amid reports which say that Beirut was willing to make compromises to end the dispute with its long-time foe.

He spoke of pressures that Lebanon is facing to prevent it from investing its oil and gas wealth, without saying from which side.

He also denied any link between the gas dispute with Israel and the plan to import gas and electricity from Egypt and Jordan or talks with the International Monetary Fund.

The Lebanese government announced plans to buy gas and electricity from Egypt and Jordan last year to help with its energy needs, but this is yet to materialise.  

The president – whose tenure is less than five months away from ending - also met with US envoy Amos Hochstein who arrived in Lebanon on Monday evening to continue negotiations over the maritime border demarcation with Israel.

Aoun stressed Lebanon's sovereign rights to its waters and natural resources and provided Hochstein with a response to the proposal the latter had previously presented months ago, "provided that Hochstein conveys the Lebanese position to the Israeli side within the next few days" according to a Lebanese presidency statement.

"President Aoun wishes Mr. Hochstein will return quickly to Lebanon with the Israeli response," the statement added.

Hochstein met with a number of Lebanese officials in Beirut on Monday and Tuesday. He has been mediating talks between Lebanon and Israel for many months.

But while Lebanon is still far behind on exploration, Israel has already began drilling for oil and gas.