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Thursday, Dec 07, 2023

Saudi Arabia ‘does not accept’ presidential vacuum threatening Lebanon’s stability: envoy

Saudi Arabia ‘does not accept’ presidential vacuum threatening Lebanon’s stability: envoy

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon on Wednesday said it was vital Lebanese political leaders elected a new president as soon as possible to safeguard the crises-hit country’s stability.
After meeting Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, envoy Walid Al-Bukhari highlighted the need to “expedite the election of a president capable of fulfilling the aspirations of the Lebanese people.”

He added: “We do not accept the ongoing presidential vacuum that threatens the stability and unity of the Lebanese people.”

Returning from a vacation in Saudi Arabia, Al-Bukhari on Wednesday

held talks with several Lebanese officials.

In a tweet following discussions with Lebanon’s grand mufti, Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan, at Dar Al-Fatwa, Al-Bukhari said: “The meeting was an opportunity for us to review the latest developments on the Lebanese scene, especially the presidential deadline and its importance in addition to a number of issues of mutual interest.”

According to Deryan’s office, the Saudi ambassador had noted the “constant communication with Dar Al-Fatwa, the religious and national reference that guarantees the unity of Lebanon and its people.”

Al-Bukhari pointed out the Kingdom’s support for Lebanon, its institutions, and Islamic-Christian coexistence, and hoped the nation would “witness stability and a promising future.”

Deryan said: “Saudi Arabia’s role in Lebanon is essential, as it is in the Arab and international arena.

“Electing a president and stabilizing Lebanon, as well as its prosperity and development, are responsibilities that fall on the Lebanese first and foremost, and then on the Arab brothers and friendly countries that support and provide assistance.

“Any settlement related to the election of the president, local or external, must be worked on to restore respect for the state, its institutions, and sovereignty in all fields.”

The presidential vacuum in Lebanon has entered its seventh month after MPs failed to secure a quorum during 12 attempted voting sessions.

Political division between Hezbollah and its allies, and also the opposition and reformists continue to prevent a solution to the matter.

The economic crisis gripping Lebanon has led to the collapse of its national currency and pushed more than half of the population into poverty.

“Dar Al-Fatwa welcomes any internal or external endeavor to end the Lebanese tragedy in which citizens pay high economic, living, social, and security prices that exceed the capacity of the Lebanese.

“Lebanon and its people are keen to have brotherly cooperation with the Kingdom and its leadership, which always works to preserve Lebanon and its Arab and cultural role in this region, as well as strives to defend the issues of Arabs and Muslims everywhere in the world,” Deryan added.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US State Department also urged “a solution from within Lebanon and not from the international community” to elect a president “free from corruption and capable of unifying the country.”

Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the State Department, said: “The US urges political leaders in Lebanon to act urgently to elect a president to unify the country and adopt the necessary reforms quickly to save the economy from its crisis.

“Lebanese leaders should not put their personal interests and ambitions above the interests of their country and people.

“Lebanon needs a president who is free from corruption and capable of unifying the country and implementing fundamental economic reforms, including those required to secure an agreement on a program with the International Monetary Fund,” Miller added.

Separately, Mojtaba Amani, the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, met Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement.

According to his media office, the Iranian envoy “informed Bassil of the Iranian-Saudi negotiation process and points of agreement,” and reiterated “Iran’s stance not to intervene in the internal Lebanese affairs and support whatever the Lebanese agree upon.”

Internal attempts to reach a compromise between the political forces have failed.

Suleiman Franjieh is still the only presidential candidate backed by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, while most of the Christian forces and reformists in Lebanon are against the choice.

Parliament Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab has been meeting political leaders for days to hold a parliamentary dialogue. After talks with Sami Gemayel, head of the Kataeb Party, he said: “We have to start with the basics first, meaning that we have to define the role of the president before suggesting names.

“Timing is very important, and we can’t wait forever to find a solution. I am holding these meetings with this in mind.”

Gemayel said: “We are open to any solution that would take us to a new phase based on the sovereignty of the state, the freedom of the decision-making process in the country, and the establishment of a strong economy.

“However, we will oppose any solution that leaves the country in its current state. The problem is with the party that always imposes its decision on the Lebanese and prevents any possibility to advance.

“Electing Suleiman Franjieh, head of the Marada Movement, will be a continuation of the past six years because of his political stance, and will lead to the death of Lebanon and the migration of its young people. We will oppose this choice through various means available.”

Bou Saab also visited the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi and met the Tajadod parliamentary bloc, which includes the opposition presidential candidate Michel Mouawad. He also met Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces.

Lebanese Forces MP Ghassan Hasbani questioned the point of the dialogue “at a time when, for Hezbollah, it’s either Suleiman Franjieh or the presidential vacuum.”

The Maronite Archbishops Council urged the Lebanese deputies, “to benefit from the regional and international positive signs regarding the window available to elect a new president and avoid whatever would undermine the hopes of the Lebanese to overcome the series of devastating crises afflicting their lives due to the difficulty of electing a president.”

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