Lebanon Urges US to Prevent Israel From 'Continuing Assaults on Sovereignty'

Lebanon Urges US to Prevent Israel From 'Continuing Assaults on Sovereignty'

Lebanon's president says he has asked visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to work on preventing ongoing Israeli violations of its sovereignty. "The people of Lebanon should also be concerned about how Hezbollah's actions and its growing arsenal bring unwanted and unhelpful scrutiny on Lebanon", Tillerson said.

Tillerson's visit comes in the wake of Lebanon signing its first offshore oil and gas exploration agreements with an worldwide consortium of energy companies, comprising France's Total, Italy's Eni and Russia's Novatek.

Tillerson is in Lebanon, a major recipient of US military aid, as part of a regional tour.

"We have never given heavy arms to the YPG so there is none to take back", Tillerson said.

Tillerson held a meeting with Lebanon's President Michel Aoun Thursday immediately after arriving in Beirut, during which he discussed Lebanon's gas and border dispute with Israel. Later, US Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said however that Lebanon "would be better off without Hezbollah's terrorism and malign influence".

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Tillerson's multi-country middle eastern tour also comes at the backdrop of tensions between Iran, its ally Syria, and Israel flaring up over the weekend as Syrian anti-aircraft shot down an Israeli jet.

Israel regards Hezbollah as the biggest direct threat on its borders and has repeatedly struck it in Syria, where the group is fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war now entering its eighth year.

Hezbollah, which the United States deems a terrorist organization, has increased its military strength since the last major conflict with Israel in 2006. Lebanese officials contest those claims, saying the area where it plans to drill belongs to Lebanon.

The long-standing border dispute between the two countries resurfaced recently as Lebanon invited foreign companies to sign exploration deals.

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