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UN warns Lebanon, Israel against taking border stability for granted as tensions rise

“Belligerent rhetoric escalates tension and adds to the feeling of apprehension among the local populations,” head of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Maj. Gen. Aroldo Lazaro said.

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The UN warned Lebanon and Israel on Thursday that relative stability along their borders should not be taken for granted.

“Belligerent rhetoric escalates tension and adds to the feeling of apprehension among the local populations,” head of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Maj. Gen. Aroldo Lazaro said.

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The UNIFIL commander spoke during a routine tripartite meeting that brings together senior officers from Lebanon’s and Israel’s armies for indirect talks in south Lebanon.

During Thursday’s meeting, Lazaro discussed recent incidents along the UN-demarcated Blue Line, continuing air violations and other issues within the scope of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

He commended the UNIFIL liaison teams, which maintain lines of communication between both countries in an effort to deconflict incidents that could potentially escalate.

But he urged both countries to avoid any action which could put the cessation of hostilities at risk. “Blue Line stability should not be taken for granted,” Lazaro said.

He also called on both sides to take advantage of the tripartite meetings to find “practical and positive solutions” as a first step toward resolving their differences.

The monthly meeting in south Lebanon has been happening on a regular basis since the end of the July 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

In recent weeks, tensions have heightened as Hezbollah and Israel exchange threats over offshore drilling rights. The Iran-backed group sent three surveillance drones over the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel shot down two of the three, according to Hezbollah.

Lebanon and Israel have been indirectly negotiating for over a decade on demarcating their maritime borders. The US has been the main intermediary, and successive administrations have expended a significant amount of diplomacy on the file.

US envoy Amos Hochstein is reportedly in Israel currently as he shuttles between Beirut and Tel Aviv to try to finalize a deal that would specify the maritime borders of each country.

Hezbollah has threatened an all-out war if no deal is reached by September. Israel has said it would “wipe” the southern suburbs of Beirut if a war broke out, referring to the Hezbollah stronghold known as Dahyeh.

Read more: US official mediating Lebanese-Israeli maritime dispute remains optimistic

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