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Lebanon president fails to rule out peace with Israel

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has cast doubt over his position on making peace with Israel after he failed to rule out the possibility during an exclusive interview

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun has cast doubt over his position on making peace with Israel after he failed to rule out the possibility during an exclusive interview with French news channel BFMTV on Saturday.

Asked during the interview whether Lebanon could be prepared to agree a peace deal with its southern neighbour, Aoun said: "That depends. We have problems with Israel, we have to resolve them first."

Lebanon and Israel are technically at war and tensions along the United Nations (UN) demarcated Blue Line which separates the two, remain high. As recently as 2006, a war was fought over the border between Israeli forces and Hezbollah, who have a stronghold of support in the south of Lebanon.

Aoun's comments also come as a shock for many given the president and his political party, the Free Patriotic Movement's, close ties to Hezbollah.

Moreover, the remarks come as regional tensions are running high over accusations levelled back and forth in the aftermath of the 4 August explosion which rocked Lebanon's capital, Beirut.

READ: World must not play politics with Lebanon's pain, Iran says

The explosion, which happened when nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate ignited in the city's port, has so far claimed the lives of nearly 200 and injured at least 6,500 more.

The blast catalysed the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab's government last week after months of anti-government protests but has so far been unable to topple President Aoun.

Asked if he had considered stepping down in the wake of the devastating blast, Aoun told BFMTV such a move would be "impossible", because "there would be a vacuum".

Meanwhile, the Lebanese president's comments come only days after the United Arab Emirates announced the normalisation of relations with Israel in an agreement brokered by the US.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah termed the treaty "a knife in the back", saying the UAE had "[betrayed] Jerusalem and the Palestinian people".

However, asked about the UAE's surprising normalisation Aoun said only that the Gulf state was an "independent country".

The UAE is only the fourth Arab state after Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania to establish ties with Israel. The latter however later halted relations in response to the occupation state's 2014 war on Gaza.

However, the Lebanese president's comments could provide tacit approval for other Arab states seeking to normalise ties with Israel, with Oman and Bahrain tipped as the next states to establish full diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv.

READ: Lebanon parliament passes emergency law, empowers army

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