Lebanon 'open' to peace talks with Israel

Lebanon 'open' to peace talks with Israel
2 min read
16 August, 2020
In a televised interview, Michael Aoun - who has close ties to Hezbollah - said that 'problems' with Israel needed to be resolved first.
Michel Aoun appeared in an exclusive interview with French broadcaster BFM [Getty]

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun suggested late Saturday that his country may consider peace talks with Israel, in an exclusive interview with French broadcaster BFM.

Asked whether Lebanon would consider rapprochement with Israel, with whom it has fought a series of wars, he said: "That depends. We have problems with Israel and we have to resolve them first." 

Given Aoun's close ties to Hezbollah the statement will likely come as a shock to observers.

Yesterday, the Iran-backed militant group warned Israel would "pay an equal price" if investigations into the Beirut port explosion which killed 178 revealed that Tel Aviv orchestrated an act of sabotage, Reuters report.

In the televised interview, Aoun was probed for comments on the normalisation deal between Israel and the UAE. He said the UAE was an "independent country", endorsing other Arab states' plans to normalise ties with Israel.

The Middle East felt shockwaves after US President Donald Trump announced the agreement on Thursday, only the third between the Jewish state and an Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan.

Palestinians of all political leanings – from the secular Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas to the Hamas Islamists – have been unanimous in their condemnation of the deal, viewing the UAE as sacrificing the Palestinian cause to gain commercial relations with Israel.

For Lebanon, its thinly veiled yet rare declaration of openness to join Israel at the negotiating table comes at a time of heightened regional tensions.

Not only have Hezbollah threatened Israel over the Beirut port explosion, but the Shiite group have themselves been accused of gross negligence for storing their arms at the blast site, something which it is claimed left the city vulnerable to attack.

Read more: Lebanon's Hezbollah 'categorically denies' storing arms at blast site

The movement's chief Hassan Nasrallah has strongly denied the charges, saying: "We have nothing in the port: not an arms depot, nor a missile depot nor missiles nor rifles nor bombs nor bullets nor (ammonium) nitrate".

Hazardous material abandoned in a warehouse at the port in the heart of the capital exploded on August 4, killing 178 and devastating swathes of Beirut.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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