Hassan Nasrallah
Hassan NasrallahReuters

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday threatened an “escalation” if Lebanon does not get what it wants in the US-mediated maritime border negotiations with Israel.

“If the Lebanese state is not given what it wants, we will be heading to an escalation, even if the [Iranian] nuclear agreement gets signed,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech, according to the Lebanese Naharnet news website.

“Should the US mediator come and give the Lebanese state what it wants, we will be heading to calm, regardless whether or not there will be a nuclear agreement,” he added.

“The eyes of the Lebanese should not be on Vienna… The eyes should be on Karish, the sea border and northern Israel,” Hezbollah’s leader went on to say.

Charging that US mediator Amos Hochstein is “still wasting time,” Nasrallah warned that “his time is running out.”

In 2021, official discussions commenced between representatives of Israel and Lebanon, with the aim of reaching an agreement on their maritime border.

There have been major natural gas discoveries off the coasts of both countries during the last decade, and the border dispute has halted gas exploration in an area that has attracted the interest of US energy companies.

The talks were initiated after Lebanon signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas off its coast with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek, including in a block disputed by Israel.

Israel says one of two blocks in the eastern Mediterranean where Lebanon wants to drill for oil belongs to it, and had denounced any exploration by Beirut as "provocative".

The Lebanese government has objected to the arrival of a vessel operated by London-based Energean off the Mediterranean coast to develop the Karish field.

Hochstein recently said he remained optimistic about making progress towards a deal.

Nasrallah, whose group is Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, has regularly spoken out against the maritime border talks.

He recently said that not only the Karish gas rig is under threat but all of Israel's gas fields in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Before that, he took aim at Hochstein, who was born in Israel, accused him of being “dishonest” and added, "If you want to continue negotiating, go ahead, but not in Naqoura (the UNIFIL site in southern Lebanon hosting the talks), and not with Hochstein, Frankenstein, or any other Stein coming to Lebanon."

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)