Lebanon will not attend the United States-led conference in Bahrain later this month, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil confirmed Tuesday.
“We prefer to have a clear idea for the [Middle East] peace plan, as we have not been asked or informed about it,” Bassil told CNN during an interview in London.
He said that among the reasons was that the Palestinians themselves were not participating.
“Lebanon has lands that are occupied and it has had a large number of refugees since 1948 so it’s not normal to not consult [us] in the so-called peace plan,” Bassil added.
A Foreign Ministry source confirmed that Lebanon had received an invitation but “will not participate.”
“This [attendance] is considered to be a form of normalization with Israel,” the source added.
Beirut’s rejection comes as U.S. officials said Egypt, Jordan and Morocco informed the Trump administration that they would attend the conference looking at proposals for boosting the Palestinian economy as part of am upcoming U.S. peace plan.
Egypt and Jordan’s participation is considered especially important since historically they have been key players in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. They are also the only Arab states to have reached peace agreements with Israel.
Palestinian leaders’ decision to boycott the June 25-26 conference has raised doubts about its chances of success.
They have shunned a broader diplomatic effort that U.S. President Donald Trump has called the “deal of century,” which they see as likely to be heavily tilted in favor of Israel and denying them a state.
Despite this, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a chief architect of the long-delayed plan, is pressing ahead with arrangements for the Bahrain meeting, where economic components are expected to be unveiled as the first step in the plan’s rollout.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have previously confirmed their attendance, a White House official said, according to Reuters.
The official declined to say what level of representation the countries would send.
U.S. officials have said they were inviting economic and finance ministers, as well as business leaders from the region and around the world. Global financial bodies including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank also plan to be present.
U.S. officials have been vague about the timing for the second phase of their initiative, which would be the release of proposals for resolving the thorny political issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Most experts are skeptical the Trump administration can succeed where decades of U.S.-backed efforts have failed.
Copyright © 2019, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.