US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker has asked the Lebanese government to stop Hezbollah from overshadowing it, political sources said.
During his meeting with Lebanese officials, Schenker placed Lebanon in the circle of danger, warning from Hezbollah’s decision to support Iran in case of a flare up in the region. “Any similar scenario would be problematic for Lebanon,” the US official was quoted as saying.
Schenker’s advice was part of several warnings issued by him during his meetings with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and other political figures in Beirut, the sources said.
Schenker was this week on his first visit to Lebanon after he was recently sworn in by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to facilitate the maritime border negotiations between Lebanon and Israel, a process led by his predecessor Ambassador David Satterfield, who left the mission after being appointed Ambassador to Turkey.
However, the US official did not stick to his mission as mediator, deciding to raise a series of concerns.
Asharq Al-Awsat learned from political sources that Schenker stressed the importance of a swift decision on starting negotiations with Israel on the border demarcation to pave way for the exploration of oil and gas in Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The US official seems adamant to back the proposal of former US diplomat Frederick Hoff, which calls for Lebanon to acquire 550 square kilometers of a disputed triangular area, and consider the rest as part of Israeli territorial waters.
The proposal has been previously rejected by the Lebanese government.
The political source said that during his meetings in Beirut, Schenker also stressed that Hezbollah was violating UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
He said the US would not withdraw sanctions against Hezbollah and Iran, which both stand behind terrorist attacks in the region.
Schenker said Hezbollah constitutes the advanced military and security arm of Iran and that the party is planning to shake regional stability.
The US official reiterated Washington’s support for the Lebanese army and for the state’s efforts to impose its control over the entire Lebanese territories.