But is Hochstein’s visit certain? What are the ideas that the American envoy carries with him?
Lebanese officials have not yet received an official message from the American side regarding the visit. According to the information, the American ambassador in Beirut, Dorothy Shea, reported that “Hockstein will come to Lebanon soon, without setting a date,” which intersects with Joe Baabda, Ain al-Tineh and the government brigade that “no one has asked for an appointment yet.” However, part of Hochstein’s ideas preceded him to Beirut, especially since after his recent visit to the enemy entity, he came up with a set of ideas that he circulated with US officials linked to Lebanese parties concerned with the file. These ideas, according to “Al-Akhbar” information, stem from Lebanese pledges that the American mediator extracted during his visit to Beirut last month, saying that “the amendment of Decree 6433 to demand an area of 1,430 km additional than the 860 km fell from the Lebanese accounts, but Lebanon wants to obtain the 23rd line, In addition to an area that guarantees him obtaining the Qana field, with the possibility of “drawing a zigzag line to ensure the separation between the two fields, as the discovered Qana field extending to the south extends to the northern part of the Karish field, according to what is provided by line number 29.”
The data available to the Lebanese side do not include whether “Israel agreed to give Lebanon more than the 23rd line, especially since during the negotiation period it considered this line the maximum limit for returning to the Hof Line, i.e., Lebanon getting less than the 863 kilometers.” However, it paved the way for other proposals that raise several questions and open the door to a search for the crisis that it could cause, especially since “the Americans and the Lebanese believe that the opportunity to complete the agreement now may not be repeated later.” Sources concerned with the file indicated that “Hockstein this time will confirm the end of the military-technical delegation’s role in Naqoura, and that the negotiations will be completed through shuttle tours that will be conducted by him conveying mutual messages between Lebanon and the enemy entity, and when the agreement is completed, the formal signature remains in Naqoura,” as he will point out. The US mediator to “end the political role of the United Nations in the negotiation process.”
Hochstein will confirm that the role of the military delegation in Naqoura has ended, and that negotiations will be completed with shuttle tours.
But the most important and most prominent is what is being circulated between specific officials in Lebanon and the US administration about “excluding the consortium consisting of the French Total, Italian Ani and Russia’s Novatek companies from any excavations on the southern borders in Blocks 8, 9 and 10.” And because “replacing it with an American company (such as Halliburton, which Israel granted a license to operate in the occupied Palestinian waters) will be a subject of great contention in Lebanon,” the sources said, “There is talk on a small scale that an Arab company is approved, which is likely to be the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.” This seems logical in relation to previous words by Hochstein, days after Joe Biden won the US presidential election, when he commented on a tweet by Mona Sukkarieh, an expert in political risks in the oil and gas sector, about the UAE joining the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum as an observer, saying: “I think that ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) could be an essential part in resolving the maritime conflict between Lebanon and Israel, if it is given an operating share in the border blocks between the two sides.” Maritime Demarcation: The Normalization Award for the UAE!)
While the sources pointed out that “the competition is limited to Qatar and the UAE, and that the balance is preponderant in the interest of the latter,” they referred to two ideas related to the company’s proposal: “Bring the Emirati company to work in the joint fields between the two countries after the completion of the demarcation, an idea previously put forward in general by the head of the National Movement.” Al-Hur, Gibran Bassil, a while ago, about hiring a company that manages wealth sharing,” or “mandating any other company to work under the technical supervision of the Emirati company, based on the relationship that the Emirates have with Lebanon and the Zionist entity after normalization and cooperation with it in the field of developing gas fields, as happened in the field Tamar (Delek Drilling signed at the end of last April a non-binding agreement to sell its stake in the Tamar natural gas field in the eastern Mediterranean to Mubadala Petroleum in Abu Dhabi for $1.1 billion).
In the context of talking about the Emirati company, the sources mentioned the UAE’s performance towards Lebanon recently “in order not to aggravate the relationship with any of the parties.” Even its position on the Saudi escalation towards Lebanon, against the backdrop of statements by Minister of Information George Kordahi, “did not touch the Saudi ceiling in its severity,” because it seeks to “have a foothold in Lebanese waters.” Pending the visit of the American mediator, the sources considered that “these propositions are without many difficulties, and that the agreement will not be easy to achieve before the picture becomes clear in Vienna, as no one is willing to offer free gifts.”