BEIRUT: Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki has called for “patience, political will and more communication” to break Lebanon’s political deadlock.
Speaking on the second day of his visit to the crisis-wracked country, Zaki said that “everyone is still insisting on their positions” and that urgent action is needed to find a political solution.
“The worst is yet to come, and action must be taken before it is too late,” he warned.
Zaki’s visit was preceded by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s arrival on Wednesday amid Arab efforts to help end the political impasse in Lebanon.
The Arab League official voiced his support for Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai’s call for “a neutral Lebanon,” a plea that sparked an internal dispute in the country.
Following his meeting with Al-Rai, Zaki said the patriarch’s position “is in total harmony with the Arab League Council’s decisions regarding Lebanon’s self-distancing policy and keeping the country out of all regional conflicts.”
During his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Zaki asked about the fate of the Taif Agreement in light of political statements calling for the cancelation or amendment of the agreement for non-Lebanese interests.
Shoukry’s agenda did not include meetings with the head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil or any Hezbollah officials, which prompted the excluded figures to describe the visit as “truncated.”
All foreign initiatives to end the political deadlock in Lebanon have ended in failure.
In his latest speech, Aoun focused on the need for a forensic financial audit of the Lebanese central bank instead of focusing on the formation of the government.
The bank’s central council said on Friday that it had submitted an updated list of the documents requested by auditors Alvarez & Marsal to Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni.
Wazni said later that he had delivered the list to the company.
A Finance Ministry source told Arab News: “We are still taking the first steps. The provided information included a list of the required documents. It might take two weeks to provide the documents, which should be done before the end of April.”
On Wednesday, Aoun talked about “the biggest heist in Lebanon’s history,” referring to depositors’ money in Lebanese banks and the financial collapse.
He also accused “political and non-political leaderships of providing cover for the central bank the Lebanese banks and the Finance Ministry.”
Aoun called on the resigned government to “hold a special session to take the appropriate decision to protect people’s bank deposits.”
The parliament in November recommended a forensic audit of all state institutions, including the central bank. In December, the parliament agreed to lift the banking secrecy rules for one year.
Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab has refused to reactivate his government to take the actions demanded by politicians.
Lebanon’s banking association has rejected “the campaign waged against the Lebanese banks by politicians.”
The association said in a statement: “The banks did not push the state to borrow all the money from the deposits at the central bank. Banks did not set the frameworks for spending on the energy sector.
“Banks did not issue the random employment decisions in the state. Banks were not behind the accumulated deficit in the balance of payments. Banks did not organize, manage, and benefit from the massive smuggling of subsidized goods at the expense of the poor and needy Lebanese citizens.”
The association added that thanks to the Lebanese banks, “the state was able to provide the salaries of the public sector employees.”
It added: “Banks paid the highest percentage of the tax collection annually in favor of the public Treasury. The banks have preserved Lebanon’s presence and international reputation. Banks have been a catalyst for the economy in its real estate, commercial and industrial sectors, through housing, personal, commercial and industrial loans that often exceeded the capital of these same companies.”