Hochstein very optimistic after meeting Lebanese leaders in Baabda


President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri met Monday with U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein in Baabda, in the presence of U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea, Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab, and General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.

Speaking after the meeting, Hochstein said that he is very optimistic that a demarcation agreement will be reached in the coming weeks after he returns to Beirut to resume the negotiations.

"I remain optimistic that we can make continuous progress as we have over the last several weeks and I look forward to coming back to the region and being able to make the final arrangements," Hochstein added.

Hochstein is carrying an Israeli proposal in response to a demarcation offer made by Lebanon last June.

This was the envoy's second visit in less than two months.

Bou Saab for his part said that "the gap has narrowed and the time separating us from Hochstein's return to Beirut with an answer will be short."

"The atmosphere is positive and everyone was relieved after the meeting," he added, noting that Lebanon was not asked to give parts of its offshore blocks and that Hochstein did not propose any sharing of resources, blocks or revenues with the Israelis.

And as Mikati said that the meeting was "positive," Ibrahim noted after the meeting that "everything is fine."

Hochstein later on Monday met with Minister Abdallah Bou Habib at the Foreign Ministry.

Bou Habib said after the meeting that "great progress has been made in the negotiations" and that "the Lebanese position is unified."

Hochstein had arrived in Beirut Sunday to push talks to resolve a bitter maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel over Mediterranean waters with offshore gas fields. He met with Energy Minister Walid Fayyad on Sunday.

The maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel had escalated in early June, after Israel moved a production vessel to the Karish offshore field, which is partly claimed by Lebanon.

The move prompted Beirut to call for the resumption of U.S.-mediated negotiations on the demarcation dispute.

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