BEIRUT: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has pledged his support for Lebanon, calling on its political leaders to “settle their disputes” and form an independent government.
El-Sisi’s comments followed a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday with Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who has promised to form a Cabinet to enact reforms and save the country from economic collapse.
During the meeting, Hariri highlighted the “strong historical” ties between Cairo and Beirut.
El-Sisi said that “in order to pull Lebanon out of its current crisis, all political leaders must put the national interest first, settle their disputes and form an independent government to address the current challenges, protect the Lebanese, and preserve national unity.”
He reiterated Egypt’s readiness to provide full support to help Lebanon overcome its economic and health crises in the wake of the Beirut blast and the coronavirus pandemic.
Talks between Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Hariri over the past two months have failed to end the country’s political deadlock, with divisions between the two leaders widening.
Hariri announced from Cairo that “he appreciates the Egyptian efforts to support Lebanon, especially after the port blast.”
He praised “Egypt’s efforts to garner support for Lebanon amid the political, economic and humanitarian challenges the Lebanese people are facing.”
Hariri also met with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who urged Lebanese officials to “put their differences and political and partisan quotas aside, prioritize the national interest and provide what is needed for the success of the PM’s attempt to form a government of specialists.”
A source close to Hariri said his Cairo visit is one of many to Arab and foreign countries in an attempt to restore Lebanese relations “with brotherly and friendly countries.”
The French initiative outlined by President Emmanuel Macron after the Beirut blast six months ago has reached an impasse.
France has said that Macron will visit Lebanon for a third time only if a national agreement is reached regarding the government formation.
Former MP Mustafa Allouch, a member of the Future Movement, said Hariri’s visit to Cairo is related to “securing an Arab lobby with Egypt as its center to convince Arab countries not to abandon Lebanon.”
Allouch ruled out the possibility of “the Egyptian intervention to help convince the head of the FPM Gebran Bassil to unblock the government.”
He said: “After his visit to Cairo, Hariri is expected to visit France to meet with Macron. This meeting might or might not help solve the Lebanese crisis since some are taking the government hostage.
“There is an explicit insistence by the presidential palace or Gebran Bassil on including members from the FPM in the new government and total rejection of independents in it, to have six ministers from the FPM and one minister from the Armenian Tashnag party, whether the government was formed by 18 or 20 ministers.
“In other words, Bassil is insisting on having the blocking third, otherwise, the president would not sign the decree, and he could not care less if the country collapses or not.”
Allouch said that Hariri “does not mind making concessions if this would lead to an effective government, but the government Bassil has in mind will be worse than all the ones before, whether led by Hariri or Hassan Diab.”
A decision to extend the lockdown in Lebanon has angered the Lebanese amid deteriorating living conditions. A person on Wednesday shot a Fransabank ATM after it failed to dispense the amount he wanted. Banks in Lebanon have imposed a ceiling for pound cash withdrawals after freezing US dollar withdrawals.