BEIRUT: Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari has said that his country “is very keen on Lebanon’s security, safety and stability.”
He reiterated the “Kingdom’s support for all the Lebanese and their institutions and eagerness to strengthen the relationship between the two brotherly countries in all fields.”
This is the Kingdom’s first statement on the situation in Lebanon since anti-corruption protests began on Oct. 17 last year. Following the protests and the restrictions on banks, the embassy decided to evacuate its nationals from Lebanon.
The Saudi ambassador made the comments after meeting on Tuesday at Dar-Al-Fatwa with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, Lebanon’s top Sunni religious authority. Bukhari said that he hoped that “the cloud that is ravaging Lebanon will disappear in the coming days and that love, coexistence, prosperity, growth and safety would return to Lebanon.”
The Saudi diplomat also praised the “unifying role assumed by Dar-Al-Fatwa under the guidance of Mufti Derian, contributing to addressing the crisis that is ravaging Lebanon.”
Commenting on the proposed US “deal of the century,” Bukhari reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights.
“Saudi Arabia holds onto a just solution that ensures the rights of the Palestinian people and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the ambassador said.
Mufti Derian hailed Saudi Arabia, which “has been and will continue to be an asset to the Arab and Islamic nation through assisting and supporting Arab and Muslim cases everywhere, especially during time of crises, and also through its wise and moderate approach and unwavering efforts to reconcile and unite all Arabs.”
The Saudi Embassy in Lebanon has reportedly reduced the number of diplomats in recent times.
A diplomatic source told Arab News that “reducing the number of diplomats or changing any diplomacy is normal, and as long as the embassy does not deny any information about the reduction of the number of diplomats, this is correct.”
The new Lebanese prime minister, Hassan Diab, promised that after his government won the vote of confidence, his first foreign visit would be to the Kingdom. However, the diplomatic source told Arab News that “nothing is arranged on this level and the government is still in the process of gaining confidence.”
According to diplomatic principles, the prime minister’s first visit after winning the vote of confidence is to the Grand Mufti. Dar Al-Fatwa sources confirmed to Arab News that “Mufti Derian will receive the new prime minister as he previously received former heads of government and there is no problem in this matter.”
On Thursday, the cabinet is due to discuss the final policy statement, which is a government action plan in preparation for its presentation to parliament to gain confidence so that the government can start its executive work.
Lebanon is facing further financial pressures that are leading to the collapse of the economy. According to circulars fixed to their doors, the banks have reduced the weekly amounts allowed to depositors from $300 to $150 every two weeks. Banks price the dollar at 1,507 Lebanese lira as an official rate but withhold dollars from depositors and customers.
“We are trying to set the US dollar exchange rate at 2,000 Lebanese liras and those who are not adhering to this rate are the unlicensed exchange offices, which creates a market imbalance,” said head of the Syndicate of Exchange Offices, Mahmoud Murad, after meeting with Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
Economists are waiting for the government to take serious measures to implement the reforms promised in its draft policy statement.
“We are waiting to see which proposed monetary options will be implemented, i.e., haircut, bail-in, restructuring, exchange rate devaluation, or the capital control that can worry the Lebanese as fiscal policy is the source of the disease,” said Nicolas Chammas, head of the Beirut Merchants Association, after meeting Lebanese Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni.
Chammas warned that “traders suffer from restrictions on remittances abroad. We have almost no possibility of transferring money abroad except for fresh money, which means we owe overseas suppliers $5 billion and we have to find a way to pay a portion of the money.”