Hochstein to suggest Lebanon solution separate from Gaza truce


U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein arrived Monday in Beirut for meetings with senior Lebanese officials over "areas of mutual and regional concern," the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said.

Media reports had said that Hochstein would visit Israel on Monday before moving to Beirut for talks over a solution for the border conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

“The U.S. envoy wants the expected truce in the Gaza war to include the southern front” in Lebanon, diplomatic sources told the Nidaa al-Watan newspaper.

“He will raise the importance of a pacification initiative from the Lebanese side instead of waiting for the declaration of a final agreement on Gaza, which has almost materialized. This will give Hochstein an important card to carry it to the Israelis to prevent a continuation of the escalation,” the sources said.

“Hochstein will try to clench a full settlement that would prevent a renewal of the war with Hezbollah should the war renew in Gaza,” the sources added.

Informed sources meanwhile told al-Akhbar newspaper that “this time Hochstein will likely carry written ideas,” seeing as “this is what he had agreed on with (Speaker Nabih) Berri and (caretaker PM Najib) Mikati.”

“The man will carry a general plan involving a halt of military operations and a return of the displaced on both sides, in addition to military measures and the deployment of the Lebanese Army in the South, ahead of negotiations over the delineation of the land border and addressing the disputes over the remaining points -- from the B1 point all the way to Kfarshouba,” the sources added.

Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab, one of the officials due to meet Hochstein, meanwhile told Reuters he believes the timing of his visit points to progress in efforts to secure a Gaza truce "within the next few hours or days."

"If this happens, I believe that Hochstein's visit this time will be of great importance to follow up on the truce on our southern borders and to discuss what is needed for stability and ending the possibility of the expansion of the war with Lebanon," he said.

In addition to Bou Saab, Hochstein is scheduled to meet with Berri, Mikati and caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib. In Israel, he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Mossad chief David Barnea.

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