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Top U.S. officials to hold talks in Paris to discuss de-escalation of Israel-Hezbollah conflict


A senior White House official plans to meet with French officials in Paris on Wednesday to discuss ways to ease escalating border fire between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, a conflict that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said this week has caused Israel to lose sovereignty in its north.

The official’s visit was confirmed by a person close to the negotiations, Amos Hochstein, the president’s special coordinator for global energy and infrastructure, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

Hochstein, who has become President Biden’s de facto envoy on resolving the border conflict, will meet with President Emmanuel Macron’s Lebanon envoy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and Anne-Claire Legendre, a senior adviser to Macron, according to another person with knowledge of the negotiations.

Lebanon became a French protectorate after World War I; France still has some influence there, give suggestions Stop the fighting.’ The White House has not yet commented on Mr. Hochstein’s visit.

U.S. officials have been working for months to prevent a war between Israel and Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and has launched rocket attacks into northern Israel in support of Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip. October 7 attack on Israel.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at the State Department last week. On Monday, he spoke about the dangers of cross-border tensions between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Credit…ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP—GETTY IMAGES

Fears of an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah have grown in recent weeks as cross-border fighting between the two militants intensified, with Israeli officials publicly vowing to shift their military focus away from Hamas and toward the more advanced and powerful Hezbollah as a military threat.

Firas Maksad, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Middle East Studies Wrote on social media There is still time for all parties to resolve the issue through diplomatic channels. “The window for diplomatic channels is closing, but it is not closed,” he said.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, Blinken said on Monday that Israel has “effectively lost” sovereignty over its border with Lebanon as Hezbollah attacks from across the border have forced large numbers of residents to flee their homes. About 60,000 Israelis have fled the area, many of whom have been living in hotels in Tel Aviv for nine months. The fighting has also displaced tens of thousands of people from southern Lebanon.

Blinken said he did not believe the main players in the border conflict — Israel, Hezbollah and Iran — really wanted to go to war, but noted that the “momentum” of the conflict could lead to war. U.S. officials worry that such a conflict could force the United States to defend Israel.

“Nobody actually wants war,” Blinken said. Iran, a sworn enemy of Israel, “wants to make sure Hezbollah is not destroyed and that Iran can use Hezbollah as a trump card if there is a direct conflict between Iran and Israel,” he said.

“If things aren’t done to address the security concerns, people won’t have the confidence to go back,” Blinken said, adding that addressing the issue would require a deal to withdraw U.S. troops from the border.

Blinken noted that Hezbollah had said it would stop firing at Israel if there was a ceasefire in Gaza, which he said “underscores the importance of a ceasefire in Gaza.” But the latest round of talks between Israel and Hamas appears to have reached an impasse.

Mr. Hochstein met with Israeli and Lebanese officials in recent weeksResponsible for delivering messages to Hezbollah and working to negotiate a withdrawal of Hezbollah far enough from the border to meet Israel’s demands. In return, analysts say Israel may withdraw from some disputed border areas and the United States may provide economic aid to southern Lebanon.

Euan Ward Contributed reporting.

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