x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Israel mulls Lebanon treaty

Israel is considering negotiating a long-term non-belligerence treaty with Lebanon, an Israeli official said today.

Israel is considering negotiating a long-term non-belligerence treaty with neighbouring Lebanon, an Israeli official said today. "This option was presented and discussed two weeks ago," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. He added that the issue was raised as part of foreign ministry discussions over the strategic challenges of the Middle East peace process. Eran Etzion, who heads the ministry's political department, stressed at the talks that a full peace agreement with Lebanon only could be signed after a peace deal is reached with Syria.

Israel and Syria launched indirect negotiations, brokered by Turkey, in May, eight years after they were broken off over the fate of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The talks with Syria have made it possible to work toward a separate non-belligerence pact with Lebanon, the Israeli official said, adding: "That is one option, there are others." A deal with Lebanon would settle disputes over the siting of the common border and include a solution to the Shebaa Farms issue, he said.

Israel captured the Shebaa Farms from Syria in 1967, and Beirut now claims the small sliver of land at the junction of the three countries with the backing of Damascus. Israel insists the area is Syrian. The pact would also include agreement on coordination between the Israeli and Lebanese armed forces and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL.) The Haaretz daily said Israel is expected to ask Lebanon to significantly curb the arsenal of the Hezbollah militia and extend the national army's authority over the whole country.

In return, agreement would have to be reached to halt Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace, the newspaper said. *AFP