BEIRUT - Lebanon will take a stance on a U.S. proposal to demarcate a contentious maritime border with Israel after consultations among the country's top three officials, Lebanese President Michel Aoun tweeted on Monday.
Aoun is set to meet with Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on Monday afternoon to discuss a proposal drafted by Amos Hochstein, the U.S. official mediating indirect talks over the last year.
"Lebanon will set its position on Hochstein's proposal in consultation with the heads of parliament and government. There will be no partnership with the Israeli side," Aoun said.
Hoping to defuse one source of conflict between the hostile countries and prod them toward accommodation, Hochstein last week submitted a new proposal to Lebanon that would pave the way for offshore energy exploration.
The details of the 10-page draft have been kept under wraps but Lebanese officials have been optimistic. Even Iran-backed Hezbollah deemed the proposal's submission "a very important step" on Saturday while its ally Berri described it as "positive".
Deputy speaker Elias Bou Saab - the main Lebanese point-person for the talks - told parliamentarians on Monday that Lebanon would propose "amendments" to the latest draft.
"The devil is in the details," said Bou Saab.
The latest draft appears to float an arrangement whereby gas would be produced by a company under a Lebanese license in the disputed Qana prospect, with Israel receiving a share of revenues.
While no company has been officially named, Lebanese officials have publicly suggested a role for TotalEnergies SE and a top Israeli official was meeting company representatives in Paris on Monday, according to a source briefed on the matter.
Israel's energy ministry confirmed that its director-general Lior Schillat, who also heads Israel's negotiating team, was in Paris for discussions on Monday.
TotalEnergies declined to comment.
Israel has said its own legal experts are also reviewing the draft before it can be approved.
Israeli media reported that the cabinet will meet on Thursday to approve the deal, but no session is formally scheduled.
A senior Israeli official told Reuters that it was not yet clear when the government would take that step, as it awaited word of Lebanon's response.
"If they come back with changes - other than small, technical things - it may not be done by Thursday," the official said.
(Reporting by Moataz Mohamed, Maya Gebeily, Laila Bassam and Benjamin Malet; Writing by Maya Gebeily and Lina Najem; Editing by Toby Chopra and Chizu Nomiyama)