BEIRUT — "There will be no partnership with the Israeli side," President Michel Aoun told a French diplomatic official in Baabda on Monday in reference to an agreement on the maritime border between Lebanon and Israel, which has seen clear progress in recent weeks.
Lebanese authorities received US envoy Amos Hochstein's written proposal on the Israeli-Lebanese maritime border on Saturday, and a meeting took place at 3 p.m. on Monday at the Presidential Palace between Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to discuss the proposal.
"Lebanon will indicate its position on Hochstein's proposal in consultation with the heads of the legislature and the government," Aoun told Anne Gueguen, the director of North Africa and the Middle East at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who he received in the presence of the French ambassador in Beirut, Anne Grillo. "There will be no partnership with the Israeli side," he added.
Israeli officials went to Paris on Monday to discuss with the TotalEnergies group a possible sharing of Lebanon's natural gas exploration benefits, the news agency Reuters reported. The French company is expected to drill and explore the Qana field for the benefit of Lebanon.
Ahead of the meeting between the three power poles, a meeting was held with members of the Lebanese technical team in charge of the maritime border file, composed of Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab, head of General Security Abbas Ibrahim, a representative of the Parliament speaker, Ali Hamdan, an army officer specialized in hydrography and a representative of the Oil Directorate, as well as other experts.
For her part, Gueguen welcomed the fact that "the southern maritime border demarcation is a message of confidence to the international community and will have positive effects." She also said that France remains "committed to continuing its assistance to Lebanon" and continues to call for the presidential election to be held on time, as Aoun is due to complete his term on Oct. 31.
Aoun also referred to this deadline, saying that he wishes for "the presidential election be held within the constitutional deadline," and assuring that "contacts are underway for the formation of a new government once obstacles are overcome." A cabinet has not been formed yet due to numerous disagreements between the president and Prime Minister-designate Mikati.