Hezbollah says border talks not "normalisation" with Israel
Lebanon and Israel, which are still technically at war, last week said they had agreed to begin UN-brokered negotiations over the shared frontier, in what Washington hailed a "historic" agreement.
The talks had "absolutely nothing to do with either any reconciliation with the Zionist enemy... or policies of normalisation recently adopted... by Arab states," Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc said.
"Defining the coordinates of national sovereignty is the responsibility of the Lebanese state," it said in a statement, the movement's first official comment on the start of the negotiations.
Hezbollah, Lebanon's Iran-backed paramilitary organisation
Hezbollah, or Party of God, was conceived by Muslim clerics in the 1980s in response to the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1982. The Shia group has a political and military wing.
National support against Israel: Hezbollah emerged in the 1980s as an amalgamation of Shia militias and played a major role in the Lebanese civil war. It used guerrilla warfare to drive Israeli forces out of South Lebanon – Israel withdrew in 2000. Israel and Hezbollah fought another war in 2006. Its defence of Lebanon against Israel won it cross-sectarian support and acceptance in Lebanese society
Backed by Iran: since its creation, Hezbollah has received military, financial and political support from Iran and Syria. Today, Hezbollah's military wing is more powerful than Lebanon's own army and has become a major regional paramilitary force
Political apparatus: Hezbollah turned its focus to politics following the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. It represents a large section of the Lebanese Shia population and is allied with other sectarian groups, including Christians. Their political development has mostly come under Hassan Nasrallah (pictured), who became the group's leader in 1992
Armed wing: unlike other parties in Lebanon's multi-sided 1975-1990 civil war, Hezbollah did not disband its armed wing. Some Lebanese political groups, such as former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement, want Hezbollah to put down its arms. Hezbollah argues its militant wing is necessary to defend against Israel and other external threats
Terror group? A number of countries and bodies, including the United States, Israel, Canada, the Arab League and, most recently, Germany, consider Hezbollah a terrorist organisation. However, Australia and many European Union countries differentiate between its legitimate political activities and its militant wing
Hezbollah enters Syria's civil war: Hezbollah has been one of the main backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country's civil war. Its entrance into the war helped save Assad, one of its chief patrons; secured weapons supply routes from Syria and formed a buffer zone around Lebanon against Sunni militant groups it feared would take over Syria. As a result it has won considerable support from Shia communities in Lebanon
Sectarianism: Lebanon has long been at the centre of regional power struggles, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, Hezbollah's military and political ascendancy, as well as its intervention in Syria, have also helped stoke Sunni-Shia sectarian tensions in Lebanon and across the region
Renewed conflict with Israel? Iran and Hezbollah have increased their political and military strength through the war in Syria. Israel views this as a threat and has carried out dozens of airstrikes on Iran/Hezbollah targets in Syria. Israel has vowed to not let Iran and Hezbollah create a permanent presence in Syria. There is growing concern of another war between Hezbollah and Israel that could draw in Iran. (Author: Chase Winter)
Last month, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab nations to establish relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah is both an armed group that has fought several wars against Israel and a major force in Lebanese politics with seats in parliament, which fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006.
Considered to be a "terrorist" group by the U.S., it is the only Lebanese group not to have disarmed after the country's 1975-1990 civil war.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz later said the talks would begin next Wednesday at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the Lebanese border town of Naqura.
Israel, he said, would send a six-member team to the October 14 talks. They would include Udi Adiri, director general of the energy ministry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign policy adviser Reuven Azar and the army's strategic division head Brigadier General Oren Setter.
The issue of the sea frontier is especially sensitive as crisis-hit Lebanon hopes to continue exploring for oil and gas in a part of the Mediterranean disputed by Israel.
In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for offshore drilling for oil and gas in two blocks in the Mediterranean with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek.
Lebanon in April said initial drilling in Block 4 had shown traces of gas, but no commercially viable reserves. Exploration of the other, Block 9, has not started and is more controversial as ownership is disputed by Israel.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berry, a key Hezbollah ally, announced the talks last week with a key adviser, Ali Hamdan, saing discussions would be "indirect". The deal follows years of U.S. shuttle diplomacy between the two sides.
As well as the discussions on the maritime border to be facilitated by the United States, a separate UNIFIL-brokered track is also to address the disputed land border. (AFP)