Lebanon News

US using border talks to target Hezbollah missiles: Nasrallah

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters via a screen during a rally marking Al-Quds ("Jerusalem") Day, Beirut, May 31, 2019. (Reuters/Aziz Taher)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah alleged Friday that a U.S. envoy tasked with mediating the land and maritime border demarcation issue between Lebanon and Israel was using his position to target Hezbollah’s precision missile arsenal.

In a speech to mark Al-Quds Day, Nasrallah criticized David Satterfield, the acting U.S. undersecretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, for, he said, exploiting the border negotiations for Israel’s benefits.

“The Americans want to use the negotiations around the maritime and land borders to solve a side issue for the sake of Israel, which it has failed to resolve throughout the years,” Nasrallah said, referring to the missiles.

Satterfield has been traveling between Beirut and Tel Aviv to mediate the land and maritime border dispute between the two countries. The current de facto border, the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line, has at least 13 points on land and 856 square kilometers of water that are disputed, the latter of which have gained increasing importance as Lebanon prepares to begin oil and gas exploration later this year.

Though Satterfield has said the discussions have a long way to go, the talks have amped up in recent weeks, after President Michel Aoun presented the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon with his country’s “unified stance” on the issue. The stance was reportedly agreed on by himself, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri.

As recently as Friday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said the discussions were in the Lebanese people’s best interest.

Nasrallah said that while his party possessed precision missiles, it does not have factories in Lebanon for manufacturing precision missiles - “yet.” However, he was quick to add that he believes it is Hezbollah’s “right” to own and manufacture any weapon to defend Lebanon, and warned that Satterfield should focus on the border demarcation issue and only that.

If the U.S. continues using its role as Nasrallah says it has, the Hezbollah leader continued, the party “will lay the foundation to have precision missile factories in Lebanon.”

These developments come as tensions have heated up in the Middle East between the U.S. and Hezbollah’s main regional backer, Iran. On Friday, Nasrallah said the U.S. knows that a war against the Islamic Republic would not be confined to Iran’s borders. “The entire region will be on fire,” he said.

Iran’s strength means that the U.S. will not enter a war with Iran, he said.

With all the “conspiring and hatred” the U.S. has directed at Iran, Nasrallah said, if Iran was weak a war would have broken out long ago. A war in the region has become highly unlikely because the U.S. and its allies know the strength of Iran and its partners, he added.

Nasrallah went on to reject the stance adopted by Lebanon at the emergency summit that convened Arab leaders in the Saudi city of Mecca overnight Thursday, saying the position had violated Cabinet’s policy of disassociation from regional conflicts.

At the summit, Hariri had called for Arab solidarity in the face of regional conflicts and threats posed by “foreign intervention.” The Lebanese premier condemned what he called an “attack on the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia,” and called for “the widest Arab solidarity in confronting them,” a statement from his office reported at the time.

The summit was called after the UAE said that oil tankers had been attacked off the coast of the emirate of Fujairah. Shortly afterward, Iran-backed Houthi rebels launched a drone strike from Yemen on oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia.

Hariri’s position “does not represent Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.

Friday’s speech marked the 40th anniversary of Al-Quds Day, established by Iran in 1979 to show support for Palestinians wishing to return to their homeland. On the occasion, Nasrallah said, “The main challenge today in front of Palestine and Quds is ‘the deal of the century,’ or Trump’s deal.”

It is “our duty to confront it,” he said.

The Hezbollah leader claimed that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration and Israel are working day and night with Arab regimes to realize the deal.

Although the details of the U.S. president’s long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan have yet to be made public, Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is set to unveil its first part at a conference in Bahrain scheduled for June 25-26.





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