Hezbollah rejected initial proposals put forward by Washington to calm tensions with Israel, but the group remains open to American diplomacy to avoid a wider war, Lebanese officials said.
US envoy Amos Hochstein visited Beirut last week as part of US efforts to ease tensions along the Israeli-Lebanese border, as the entire region teeters dangerously towards a major escalation of conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on shipping in the Red Sea, U.S. strikes in response to those attacks, and strikes taking place elsewhere in the Middle East make these efforts even more urgent.
“Hezbollah is ready to listen,” said a senior Lebanese official familiar with the group’s positions, while stressing that the armed movement considered the ideas presented by Amos Hochstein during his visit to Beirut unrealistic.
Hezbollah said it would fire rockets into Israel until a complete ceasefire was established in Gaza.
A Lebanese official and a security source said the group’s openness to diplomatic efforts demonstrated its desire to avoid a broader conflict, even after Israel’s drone attack earlier this month in outskirts of Beirut in which the number two in the Hamas political office was killed.
Israel has also said it wants to avoid war, but both sides have said they are ready to fight if necessary. Israel has warned it will respond more aggressively if a deal to secure the border area is not reached.
Considered a terrorist organization by Washington, Hezbollah was not directly involved in the talks, three Lebanese officials and a European diplomat said.
Amos Hochstein’s proposals were transmitted to the group by Lebanese mediators.
According to three Lebanese sources and a US official, one of these proposals was aimed at reducing hostilities at the border, alongside measures taken by Israel to reduce the intensity of its operations in Gaza.
Another proposal called for Hezbollah fighters to move 7 kilometers away from the border, two of the three Lebanese officials said. Israel has demanded that Hezbollah fighters withdraw 30 km to the Litani River, as stipulated in a 2006 UN resolution.
Hezbollah rejected both proposals as unrealistic, Lebanese officials and a diplomat said.
The Israeli prime minister’s office declined to comment on the “reports (relating to) diplomatic discussions.”
The White House declined to comment.
Spokespeople for Hezbollah and the Lebanese government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Hezbollah, however, has indicated that once the war in Gaza ends, it could be open to a Lebanese-led negotiation over a deal on disputed areas on the border, the three Lebanese officials said.
“After the war in Gaza, we are ready to support Lebanese negotiators to turn the threat into an opportunity,” a senior Hezbollah official told Reuters, preferring to remain anonymous.
Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said Wednesday there was “still a window of diplomatic opportunity” to push Hezbollah away from the border.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Beirut was ready to discuss the long-term stability of the border.
This article is originally published on zonebourse.com