Hariri stops for talks with El-Sisi on his way back to Lebanon

Egyptian PresidentAbdel Fattah El-Sisireceives outgoingLebanese Premier SaadHariri in Cairo. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017

Hariri stops for talks with El-Sisi on his way back to Lebanon

BEIRUT/CAIRO: Outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks in Cairo on Tuesday with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during a stopover on his way from Paris to Beirut.
Hariri’s resignation on Nov. 4 triggered a political crisis in the power-sharing government. In brief remarks after Tuesday’s meeting, he thanked El-Sisi for his support and said he would be in Lebanon on Wednesday for Independence Day celebrations.
Minutes after Hariri landed in Cairo, small groups of supporters took to the streets of central Beirut in noisy convoys, honking, cheering and waving flags with the colors of his Future Movement political bloc. Hariri had been in Paris since Saturday when he met French President Emmanuel Macron.
Hariri arrived at Cairo International Airport, where he was received by Egypt’s health minister, the Lebanese ambassador to Cairo and Egypt’s ambassador to Beirut. He went immediately to the Heliopolis Palace, where he was warmly greeted by El-Sisi. Their meeting was also attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, intelligence chief Khaled Fawzy and El-Sisi’s chief of staff, Abbas Kamel. The meeting was followed by a dinner in Hariri’s honor.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun also spoke by phone with El-Sisi. The two men “underscored the importance of preserving Lebanon’s stability as well as upholding Lebanon’s national interest,” El-Sisi’s office said.
Also on Tuesday, France repeated its call to Hezbollah to “lay down its arms and act as a party that respects Lebanon's sovereignty and commits to the Security Council’s resolutions on this matter.”
“Lebanon’s stability requires that Hezbollah does not get involved in the region’s conflicts, and therefore we consider its intervention in Syria dangerous,” said the French Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Agnès Romatet-Espagne.
She also reminded Hezbollah how important the security of the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel was to France.
“Given the delicate circumstances, Paris will continue its dialogue with all Lebanese parties and urge them to reach an understanding on the proper functioning of state institutions,” she said.
President Aoun received messages on Tuesday from King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman congratulating him on Lebanon’s Independence Day on Wednesday.
The two Saudi leaders wished Aoun good health and happiness, and the people of Lebanon progress and prosperity.
Aoun and Lebanon’s parliamentary Speaker, Nabih Berri, also received a congratulatory message from US President Donald Trump. “The United States greatly values the established cultural, family, political and economic ties between the two countries and their people,” said Trump. “Lebanon has always been a strong partner in facing terrorism and radical extremism. We stand firmly with Lebanon and we will continue to support the efforts of your country to protect Lebanon’s stability, independence and sovereignty.”

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

A special meeting of the Joint Commission of parties to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on Iran’s nuclear deal is in progress in Vienna. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2018

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

  • ‘Noose is tightening on Tehran’ in face of US sanctions, expert tells Arab News
  • US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

JEDDAH: Signatories of the Iran nuclear deal met in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save the agreement after Washington’s dramatic withdrawal earlier this month.

For the first time since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered — at Iran’s request — without the US, which pulled out of the agreement on May 8 and said it would reinstate sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran — concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama — saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to AFP after Friday’s meeting, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, said: “We are negotiating... to see if they can provide us with a package that can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting.” 

“Practical solutions” were required to address Iran’s concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investment in the country, he said.

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note after the meeting, saying: “We have all the chances to succeed, provided we have the political will.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News that it would be against Europe’s interests to stay in the deal.

“The European nations should be cognizant of the fact that the beneficiary of the nuclear deal is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its militias,” he said. “Staying in the deal or submitting to the Iranian regime’s new demands will inflict damage on the EU’s geopolitical and national security interest in the short and long term.”

The EU could not thwart or skirt US primary and secondary sanctions against Iran, he said. Rafizadeh said Iran’s hard-liners were attempting to obtain concessions from the EU by threatening to pull out of the JCPOA.

“But from the perspective of the Iranian leaders, giving concessions means weakness. And although Iran is playing tough, it needs the deal to support Bashar Assad and its proxies.

“The European governments should be aware that the Iranian leaders — moderates and hard-liners — are playing a shrewd tactical game.

“The regime is playing a classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ game. The moderates set the tone on the international stage through their shrewd diplomatic skills and softer tone, while the hard-liners take a tougher stance to help the moderates win more concessions,” said Rafizadeh.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said the noose was tightening on Tehran.

“European firms simply cannot afford the penalties imposed by US secondary sanctions on Iran. The Iranian plan to press Europe to compensate for President Trump’s policy decision to restart a crippling sanctions regime is unlikely to prove fruitful,” he told Arab News.

Recent revelations of a covert Iranian facility designed to develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be fitted with nuclear warheads will only complicate matters for Tehran as it scrambles for a European lifeline, Shahbandar said.

“The collapse of the JCPOA is likely to prove a major shock to the Iranian economy in the long run,” he said.