UPDATE - US state secretary arrives in Lebanon, meets president

UPDATE - US state secretary arrives in Lebanon, meets president

Rex Tillerson's regional tour comes amid mounting tensions between Lebanon, Israel


By Wassem Saif al-Din

BEIRUT (AA) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is currently on a five-nation tour of the region, arrived in Beirut on Thursday for talks with Lebanese leaders.

At a meeting with the visiting U.S. official, President Michel Aoun called on Washington to stop Israel from repeatedly trespassing on Lebanese territory and to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1701, according to a statement issued by Aoun’s office.

"We’re committed to maintaining calm on the southern border [with Israel],” Aoun told Tillerson during the meeting.

“We don’t want war with anyone, but Israel is continuing its aggression against us,” he added.

UNSC Resolution 1701, which prohibits acts of aggression in Southern Lebanon, was adopted in 2006 following a devastating month-long conflict between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

Pointing out that Lebanon was home to more than 1.85 million Syrian refugees, Aoun also called on the U.S. to help ensure the “safe and gradual” return of refugees to their homes and a “peaceful resolution” of the years-long Syria conflict.

Tillerson, who arrived in Beirut early Thursday from Jordan, also met with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The U.S. secretary of state’s tour of the region comes amid mounting tension between Lebanon and Israel.

Earlier this month, Lebanon's Supreme Defense Council ordered the military to prepare for possible conflict with Israel near the two countries’ shared border.

The council also warned against Israeli plans to build a wall along the border zone, saying the planned barrier -- if erected -- would constitute a violation of Lebanese sovereignty and UNSC Resolution 1701.

Tillerson, who has already visited Egypt, Kuwait, and Jordan, is now scheduled to travel to Turkey for the fifth and final leg of his regional tour.

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