An article in London-based pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat noted that during a recent visit to Lebanon, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told his Lebanese counterpart Fouad Siniora and Lebanese ministers that he raised the matter during his meeting last week with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
According to the report, which quoted sources in the Lebanese government, Olmert expressed willingness to discuss the issue pending the release of the two Israeli soldiers still being held hostage by Hizbullah – Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
European diplomatic sources see this as an important development, after Olmert apparently refused to discuss the matter during the first two weeks of the war in Lebanon, when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited, and when her aide David Walsh was mediating before the UN passed Resolution 1701. At the time Olmert explained that he had no intention of giving Hizbullah “free gifts.”
According to the sources, during their August 30 meeting in Jerusalem Olmert told UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that he intended to weigh the issue of the Shebaa Farms, but that Annan must first discuss the matter with the Syrians in any case.
The assessment is that if the Shebaa Farms dispute is put on the table, Hizbullah will be seriously pressured to disarm.
Meanwhile, regarding Hizbullah's two Israeli hostages, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai al-Aam reported Saturday that Lebanese member of parliament General Michel Aoun flew to Belgium in to orchestrate negotiations on a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Lebanon.
According to the report, Aoun was directing negotiation efforts with the aid of “a Lebanese figure living in Tel Aviv for over five years.” The Kuwaiti newspaper said Aoun’s visit and the talks were held under cover of deep secrecy.
Aoun is considered to be an ally of Hizbullah in the Lebanese political system, although he leads and independent political faction.