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U.S. state secretary arrives in Lebanon, meets president

15 February 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday the United States had "never given heavy arms" to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and there was therefore "nothing to take back".

Washington's proposal was made by acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield, as a preview of the issues that Tillerson will discuss.

The president has underscored that the offshore energy blocks are located in Lebanon's waters and thus are within Beirut's exclusive economic zone.

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From 2006 until assuming his role in U.S. President Donald Trump's administration in 2016, Tillerson was ExxonMobil's chairman and CEO.

Tillerson's visit comes in the wake of Lebanon signing its first offshore oil and gas exploration agreements with an worldwide consortium of energy companies, comprising France's Total, Italy's Eni and Russia's Novatek. "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. Lebanon is upset about Israel's construction of a dividing wall along the border between the two countries, which are still technically at war.

Hezbollah has always rejected any demand that it give up its weapons, which it says are necessary to defend Lebanon against Israel.

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The grueling process, which began in 2011, will pave the way for drilling to begin in 2019 if the dispute is resolved, as Lebanon seeks to enter the hydrocarbon race in the region.

Tillerson said Hezbollah's engagement in Syria has "perpetuated the bloodshed" in that country and threatens the security of Lebanon. USA officials have previously tried to mediate the dispute. Prior to that, Israel had intercepted an Iranian drone which led to their jets hitting targets across Syria's territory.

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U.S. state secretary arrives in Lebanon, meets president