USA reaffirms importance of close partnership with Lebanon

USA reaffirms importance of close partnership with Lebanon

President Michel Aoun told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday that Lebanon was committed to preserving calm on its southern border and urged Washington to play an "effective role" to help resolve Beirut's land and maritime disputes with Israel.

Aoun called on the United States to "work on preventing Israel from continuing its assaults on Lebanese sovereignty", saying Beirut sticks to its internationally-recognized borders and dismissed Israeli claims to a disputed maritime zone. "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.

The heavily armed Shi'ite movement is part of the Lebanese coalition government led by Sunni Muslim politician Hariri, under a complex political system that promotes sectarian power-sharing.

Several proposals were put forth during the meeting Monday ahead of Tillerson's visit, including potential negotiations strategies with the U.S, yet the rhetoric emanating over the past few days suggests that Lebanon will hold onto its demands.

Tillerson said Hezbollah's engagement in Syria has "perpetuated the bloodshed" in that country and threatens the security of Lebanon.

Hezbollah, which the United States deems a terrorist organization, has increased its military strength since the last major conflict with Israel in 2006.

Notably, Tillerson's visit comes amid mounting tensions between Lebanon and Israel. Lebanon says part of the wall follows the UN-demarcated "Blue Line" that was drawn up after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, and insists some sections will cut into its territory. Lebanon is upset about Israel's construction of a dividing wall along the border between the two countries, which are still technically at war.