France Advocates Hezbollah Pullback, Border Discussions for Israel-Lebanon Truce

France Advocates Hezbollah Pullback, Border Discussions for Israel-Lebanon Truce

BEIRUT - France has presented a written initiative to Beirut aimed at quelling tensions with Israel and resolving the contentious Lebanon-Israel border dispute, as revealed in a document reviewed by Reuters. The proposal, which calls for the withdrawal of fighters, including Hezbollah's elite unit, by 10 kilometers from the border, seeks to end the clashes between Hezbollah, backed by Iran, and Israel along the border. These clashes, occurring alongside the conflict in Gaza, have raised fears of a catastrophic all-out confrontation.

The document, the first written proposal delivered to Beirut after weeks of Western mediation, was handed over to top Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, by French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne. Despite the proposal's aim to prevent an escalating conflict, Hezbollah has refused formal negotiations until the cessation of hostilities in Gaza, echoing a sentiment expressed by a Hezbollah politician.

While some details of similar mediation efforts by U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein have surfaced recently, the complete contents of the French proposal had not been previously disclosed. The three-step plan envisions a 10-day process culminating in negotiations on the border delineation.

France's historical ties with Lebanon, along with its significant presence in the country, underpin its involvement in the peace-building efforts. The proposal, which has also been shared with Israel and Hezbollah, suggests a cessation of military operations between Lebanese armed groups and Israel, including Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon. It further outlines the dismantling of premises and facilities near the border by Lebanese armed groups, with Hezbollah's elite fighters withdrawing at least 10 kilometers north of the frontier.

Notably, the proposed withdrawal distance falls short of the 30 kilometers mandated in a previous U.N. resolution, indicating a compromise intended to prevent rockets from reaching northern Israeli villages while being more acceptable to Hezbollah. Additionally, the plan advocates for the deployment of up to 15,000 Lebanese army troops in the southern border region, historically a stronghold for Hezbollah.

Hezbollah's response to the proposal remains guarded, with one senior politician emphasizing the group's stance on Gaza's situation before engaging in discussions regarding the southern border. While the proposal has sparked concerns in Beirut, particularly regarding vague language that could target Hezbollah-affiliated civilian institutions, it also outlines measures for international support in strengthening the Lebanese army and promoting socio-economic development in southern Lebanon.

The proposal, reminiscent of previous ceasefire agreements, delineates a three-step approach spanning 10 days, including the cessation of military operations, withdrawal of armed groups, and negotiations on border delineation with U.N. support. Despite these efforts, tensions persist, prompting ongoing diplomatic engagements aimed at restoring calm and preventing further escalation.


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