BEIRUT: The ambassadors of the Arab-International Quintet Committee on Lebanon have stressed the need to “accelerate the process of electing a new president.”
They also indicated that “there does not necessarily have to be a direct link between what’s happening in Gaza and Lebanon.”
The five ambassadors met Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Friday.
“What’s happening in Gaza should be a greater incentive for Lebanon to complete the process of electing a president, as it is of utmost importance for the future days,” said Egyptian Ambassador Alaa Moussa after the talks.
He was commenting on behalf of the other committee members, and added: “The challenges and commitments the region will witness require Lebanon to have a president speaking in its name.”
The committee, which comprises the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the UAE, and France, follows developments in Lebanon.
It affirmed that “in the coming period, it will seek to create once again the environment necessary, for the Lebanese political forces that have a genuine desire, to move toward ending this matter as soon as possible.”
Lebanon has been without a president since November 2022. The parliament has failed to elect one despite holding 12 electoral sessions — the last of which was in June — as candidates failed to make it to the second round of voting due to internal political disputes.
Moussa added: “The committee has a unified stance, which is our commitment to providing all possible assistance and facilitation.
“There is a renewed spirit, and we will work on this in the coming period to reach a unified position and a road map to complete the presidential election process. So far we remain optimistic."
A political observer said that the US had insisted on the restoration of stability in southern Lebanon to facilitate diplomatic efforts based on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 to end hostilities in the country.
Mikati told Reuters on Thursday that an early halt to fighting in the Gaza Strip would trigger indirect talks to end hostilities along Lebanon’s southern border with Israel. He added he was confident that Hezbollah would announce a ceasefire if Israel did the same.
His remarks came as a new clash was reported between Iran-backed Hezbollah and UN Interim Force in Lebanon troops in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Thursday night.
Candice Ardell, deputy director of the UNIFIL Media Office, said a peacekeeping vehicle on a routine logistical operation from southern Lebanon to Beirut ended up on an unplanned route.
The UNIFIL vehicle, which was carrying soldiers from a Malaysian battalion, entered the Hayy Al-Sullum area where Hezbollah members intercepted it, confiscating equipment and cameras.
Some reports said that UNIFIL staff were handed over to Hezbollah’s security committee while others claimed that they were handed over to the Lebanese army and later released.
The incident occurred amid ongoing discussions to bolster UNIFIL’s operations in the south to support the Lebanese army, while mending relations with Hezbollah.
The tension stems from Hezbollah’s objections to UNIFIL’s incursions into residential neighborhoods without being accompanied by the army.
A UNIFIL spokesperson said: “In addition to freedom of movement inside UNIFIL’s area of operations, peacekeepers have the freedom and authorization from the Lebanese government to move throughout Lebanon for administrative and logistical reasons.
“This freedom of movement is essential to implementing the UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”
Fighting has meanwhile continued between Israel and Hezbollah on the southern front.
The Israeli air force carried out noon raids on Friday on the border town of Aita Al-Shaab after a night of heavy shelling which caused extensive damage.
Israeli artillery then targeted the towns of Houla and Wazzani in the Marjayoun district.
The Lebanese Armed Forces announced that “members of an army patrol found an Israeli army drone carrying leaflets, and a specialized army unit worked to dismantle …it.”
Meanwhile, Hezbollah announced that it had shot down “an Israeli army drone in the Azziyeh valley at midnight Thursday-Friday.”