By Israel Hayom—
A US official visiting Beirut to mediate between Lebanon and Israel over a maritime border dispute is a “friend of Israel,” keen to defend its interests, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah warned on Tuesday.
Nasrallah urged Lebanese officials to negotiate from a point of strength with US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker over the nearly 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea claimed by both countries.
Schenker met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri after his arrival on Monday. On Tuesday, he met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who complained about new American sanctions that targeted Jammal Trust Bank for, as the US Treasury Department said, “knowingly facilitating banking activities for Hezbollah.”
In comments released by Berri’s office and circulated on local media, he said that Beirut has drafted laws in the past years to fight money laundering, adding that “the Lebanese economy and banking sector cannot take this amount of pressure.”
The US considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has been imposing sanctions on the group for years. In July, the Treasury for the first time imposed sanctions on two Hezbollah legislators.
Lebanon hopes to unleash offshore oil and gas production as it grapples with an economic crisis. Washington is mediating between Israel and Lebanon, which have officially been at war since Israel’s creation in 1948.
In addition to the disagreement over the maritime border, Israel and Lebanon also disagree over their land border. Earlier this year, the US had asked the Lebanese for a “unified position,” signaling a perception that some were trying to separate the two issues. Continue Reading…