US Envoy Urges Lebanon to Form a New Government

Published March 26th, 2021 - 05:56 GMT
Lebanon requested to form new government.
Lebanese women hold placards as they protest against the country's political paralysis and deep economic crisis in Beirut on the occasion of Mother's Day, on March 20, 2021. ANWAR AMRO / AFP
Dorothy C. Shea urged Lebanon’s leaders to from new government

US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy C. Shea on Thursday urged Lebanon’s leaders to form a new government and “rescue the country from the multiple crises and self-inflicted wounds” it was facing.

The country’s politicians have been unable to agree on who should be in the new government and what portfolios they should have, and there is also a dispute between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri about who is to blame for the stalemate.

The row has rumbled on for months, even as Lebanon grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the aftermath of the deadly Beirut Port explosion, social unrest and economic challenges.

Shea met Aoun on Thursday, saying afterwards that the importance and urgency of forming a government committed to and able to implement reforms had been discussed with the president. 

“The United States has continuously reiterated its commitment to stand by and support the people of Lebanon. Right now, there is a need for courageous leaders, who are ready to put aside their partisan differences and work together to rescue the country from the multiple crises and self-inflicted wounds it is facing. I am confident that you can do this.”

She also told political activists that their demands, about their vision for the government, fighting corruption and holding parliamentary elections, should be “put aside.”

“Let’s focus on the here and now,” the ambassador said. “I know your government, your leaders are trying to form a government. And I would just say, respectfully, for anyone who has been placing demands on forming this government that your people so desperately need, and if those demands have resulted in blocking that government formation, I would ask: Now that we are almost eight months without a fully empowered government, isn’t now the time to let go of those demands? To begin compromising? It’s important to focus on building a government, not blocking a government. Thank you.”

Consultations between Aoun and Hariri reached a dead end earlier this week. Aoun insists on having the blocking third in any government being formed and naming the Christian ministers in it. Hariri, on the other hand, rejects the blocking third and is committed to a government of independent specialists.

Shea made her remarks before meeting Hariri, with a source close to the prime minister-designate saying that her statement could be read differently. 

“The ambassador announced her stance on the Baabda (presidential) Palace, and this was not after meeting with Hariri,” the source told Arab News. “Therefore, her stance may be directed at Aoun to stress the necessity of giving up the demand of the blocking third. In any case, if things are heading toward a settlement, let it be because the situation is intolerable.”

In his Thursday sermon Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai told Hariri to prepare an “excellent” government line-up and submit it to the president. 

He urged both men to consult each other in a “pure and patriotic spirit” to agree on new names and the distribution of portfolios within the framework of equality and on the basis of the constitution and the National Pact, an unwritten agreement between then-President Bechara El-Khoury and Prime Minister Riad Al-Solh that founded independent Lebanon as a multi-confessional state. 

Al-Rai’s sermon followed his telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who stressed the necessity of forming a government and the importance of keeping Lebanon away from all conflicts.

Former MP Faris Saeed said there would be no political breakthrough before the start of US-Iran negotiations.

“They are now trying to form a government by the terms of Hezbollah and with the help of the US,” he told Arab News. “In other words, they are trying to find an interim settlement to pass time. Of course, this settlement undermines the French initiative and will not open

Saudi doors to the authority in Lebanon. The Saudi ambassador was clear when he stressed the need to implement the decisions of international legitimacy. The Americans believe that a government based on a settlement is better than no government in light of the collapse into which Lebanon is sliding.”

The political wrangling came as people debated the 75 tons of oxygen that Syrian President Bashar Assad donated to Lebanon’s hospitals through Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan, who visited Damascus.

Those who objected to the donation said the 75 tons would run out within three weeks in one hospital.

Suleiman Haroun, president of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, said he was unaware of an oxygen shortage in hospitals and that there were two laboratories in Lebanon producing it.

Israel’s Health Ministry Director-General Hezi Levi on Thursday suggested the possibility of providing Lebanon’s hospitals with ventilators for treating COVID-19 patients. 

But this offer was met with sarcasm on social media.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

Copyright: Arab News © 2021 All rights reserved.

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