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Lebanon’s gas row tops agenda as Israeli PM visits Paris

#Lebanons #gas #row #tops #agenda #Israeli #visits #Paris

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid makes his first foreign trip as prime minister on Tuesday to Paris, where he will ask President Emmanuel Macron to intervene in a gas row with Lebanon.

Lapid took over as prime minister on Friday after the collapse of Israel’s coalition government, which will see the country return to the polls in November for its fifth general election in less than four years.

The rising leader faced his first test a day later when the Lebanese Hezbollah movement fired three drones at an offshore gas field in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Hezbollah is continuing the path of terrorism and hampering Lebanon’s ability to reach an agreement on a maritime border,” Lapid said Sunday.

Lebanon rejects Israel’s claim that the Karish gas field is within its territorial waters.

Israel and Lebanon resumed negotiations over their maritime border in 2020, although the Karish site is outside the disputed area and is marked as Israeli on previous UN maps.

The US-backed talks were blocked by Beirut’s demand that the UN maps be changed.

Bilateral talks in Paris will also include Hezbollah’s backer Iran, as Israel firmly opposes international efforts to revive a nuclear deal with Tehran.

Israeli officials fear that lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbing its nuclear program could allow Tehran to increase funding for Hezbollah as well as the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

– War in Ukraine prompts energy deals –

Lapid’s predecessor, Naftali Bennett, described Israel’s nemesis Iran as an “octopus” spreading its tentacles across the region.

Israel’s new prime minister has promised to do “whatever we have to do” to prevent Iran from “entrenching itself on our borders” or acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Ahead of Lapid’s arrival in Paris, a senior Israeli official said that the gas issue in Lebanon would be high on the agenda of talks at the Elysee.

“We will ask France to intervene to secure the negotiations that we want to have until the end of the gas issues,” the official told reporters traveling with the prime minister.

Lapid’s visit to Paris comes days ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories before flying to Saudi Arabia for energy talks.

Washington is trying to stabilize the global energy market after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which prompted Moscow to cut gas supplies to some European countries.

Israel and Egypt signed a deal last month to boost gas exports to the European Union as the bloc seeks to end its reliance on Russian energy.

“The Lebanon issue is crucial and Lapid will return to the Israeli position that Hezbollah is primarily a threat to Lebanon’s future,” said the Israeli official, who asked not to be identified.

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#Lebanons #gas #row #tops #agenda #Israeli #visits #Paris

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