Egypt will make ‘every effort’ to help resolve Lebanon crisis

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BEIRUT: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Wednesday that his country “will continue to make all possible efforts alongside Lebanese political parties to overcome the crisis in the formation of the new government”.

Shoukry, who visited Lebanon for the first time since the explosion of the destroyed port of Beirut eight months ago, denounced “the current political impasse preventing the formation of a government of specialists capable of meeting the needs of the Lebanese people. brother and to achieve stability, not only for Lebanon but for the region and Egypt. “

Shoukry conveyed a message from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to his Lebanese counterpart, President Michel Aoun, which “underlined Egypt’s solidarity with Lebanon and its support for efforts to form a new government, as this would open up the door to a regional government. and international support and therefore serve the common interests of the countries of the region, but mainly those of the brotherly Lebanese people.

Shoukry added: “The political framework of the next government is governed by the constitution, the Taif Accord and full commitment to these documents, which are considered the main pillars of stability.”

This latest attempt to encourage Lebanese politicians to make progress comes 167 days after Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a new government to replace one that resigned shortly after the Beirut explosion. Politicians have so far failed to reach consensus due to Aoun’s stated determination to secure a blocking third party – one-third control of cabinet portfolios for his allies, which would give them the power to veto any proposal requiring a two-thirds majority. . Hariri refuses to grant this.

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As the political stalemate continues, the financial crisis in the country deepens. A few days ago, the interim finance minister, Ghazi Wazni, warned that “the reserve dedicated to financing basic imports is running out and could dry up completely by the end of May, unless we do not cut subsidies by issuing ration cards to around 800,000 families in need ”.

The agenda for Shoukry’s visit did not include meetings with Acting Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, Acting Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe, or Hezbollah officials.

Instead, he met Hariri, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi, Druze leader Walid Joumblatt, party leader Kataeb Sami Gemayel and party leader Marada Suleiman Frangieh. A scheduled meeting with Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea was called off after Geagea tested positive for COVID-19.

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Shoukry praised Berri for his “role and initiative to end this crisis, while preserving the strong political and legal foundation by respecting the constitution and the Taif Agreement”.

And after his meeting with the Maronite Patriarch, he said: “We agree with Al-Rahi on the importance of quickly forming a government to implement the required reforms, paving the way for regional and international support. “

Egypt has backed an economic reform initiative launched by French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to Beirut shortly after the explosion and has indicated that it is ready to work with Paris to ensure its successful implementation. by a new government formed by political consensus.

Aoun’s office said the president “praised the role played by Egypt, under the leadership of El-Sisi, in helping Lebanon cope with the various crises it is facing, in particular the government crisis. “. He also expressed the hope that “the efforts will bear positive results by committing to respect the constitutional and distribution rules on which the Lebanese system is based, and by including all Lebanese parties without exclusion or discrimination”.

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In a televised speech Wednesday, Aoun stressed “his commitment to a forensic audit to hold accountable those who stole money from the people and the Lebanese state.”

In January, the Mount Lebanon prosecutor, Ghada Aoun, indicted Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh over allegations relating to the use of foreign exchange reserves.

Also on Wednesday, ministers met at the Defense Ministry to discuss the demarcation of the northern maritime borders, after a Syrian-Russian gas exploration deal ignored more than 750 kilometers of Lebanese borders.

“The parties agreed on the importance for the Lebanese authorities to acquire the official documents in order to set up a communication mechanism with the Syrian authorities,” the ministry said. “This underlines the position that Lebanon has conveyed to the Syrian authorities on several occasions since 2010 and submitted to the UN.”

Foreign Minister Wehbe said on Tuesday: “President Aoun had a telephone interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad, during which he discussed the demarcation of the northern maritime borders with Syria and stressed that Lebanon no ‘would not agree to undermine its maritime sovereignty. “

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