Hezbollah Chief Threatens 'Escalation' if Lebanon Doesn't Get Maritime Rights

Regardless of whether a new nuclear deal is penned with Iran, 'if the U.S. mediator does not give Lebanon what it asked for in terms of its rights, we are heading towards an escalation,' Nasrallah says in televised speech

Reuters
Reuters
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A poster of Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, last week.
A poster of Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, last week.Credit: Aziz Taher/Reuters
Reuters
Reuters

The head of Lebanon's powerful Iran-backed group Hezbollah said on Friday the outcome of nuclear talks in Vienna would have no impact on maritime talks aimed at delineating Lebanon's border with Israel.

"Whether a nuclear deal with Iran is signed or not, if the U.S. mediator does not give Lebanon what it asked for in terms of its rights, we are heading towards an escalation – we are heading towards a problem," said Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech, without elaborating.

Both Israel and Lebanon claim that the area in question – a 330-square mile triangular area of the Mediterranean Sea that starts at the shared land border – is within their own exclusive economic zones.

The compromise that has been taking shape between Israel and Lebanon calls for drawing a border running north of Israel's Karish natural gas site in the Mediterranean – thereby declaring the area in dispute Israeli territory – but it also grants Lebanon the right to drill at a site that it is developing there.

The arrival of a drilling ship to the Karish gas site in June stirred tensions. Both Israel and Lebanon claimed the area belongs to them, and Lebanese group Hezbollah had previously threatened to attack Israeli operations there.

The U.S. and Israel are aiming to reach an agreement as soon as possible as they fear Hezbollah will try to attack the rig before it starts operating in September.

Senior U.S. officials told their Israeli counterparts that in case it does, the Israeli army should respond with restraint, but Israel has refused to commit to that, saying instead that the intensity of its response will depend on the scope of Hezbollah's attack and its consequences.

Jonathan Lis contributed to this report.

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