Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati hailed the latest development in the Saudi-Iranian relations, stressing that Lebanon supports any “consensual” course in the region mainly that Saudi Arabia is a party to it.
The Prime Minister also defended Lebanon’s cabinet meetings amid the vacuum at the top state post, and amid accusations questioning its constitutionality.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, Mikati said that the latest developments pose an “opportunity to breathe in the region and look forward,” noting that the new turn in the Saudi-Iran ties will reflect positively in the region.
Although Mikati does not consider that the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would affect Lebanon’s problematic file of electing a president, he acknowledges a “political realism” that less tension abroad brings appeasement in Lebanon.
Supporting the remarks of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan regarding the election of a new head of state, Mikati told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The Lebanese must not look abroad for solutions, we must carry out our duties in electing a president, building institutions, and embarking on solving our many and major problems.”
“The crisis in Lebanon has been accumulating over many years…Implementing the required reforms must be expedited before the crisis escalates further and reaches the point of no return,” he warned.
On the reforms that Lebanon has to enact in order to unlock billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund, he said: “Because we were aware of the seriousness of the situation, we rushed to take measures to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund, being the main step available to us and to motivate countries to support Lebanon.
“We signed the initial agreement with the IMF, and we are still seeking, in cooperation with the Parliament, to pass the required reform laws in preparation for signing the final agreement,” he added.
Lebanon has yet to enact most of the reforms needed to access billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help itself out of its economic crisis.
The PM said that the government is looking for immediate and essential solutions to stop the collapse and ensure the continuity of the work of the state and institutions, “but these measures are not the final solution,” said Mikati. He stressed the need to expedite the election of a new president that paves way for a solution and recovery.
Lebanon has no choice but to carry out the required reforms and cooperate with the International Monetary Fund, in order to garner international support, “this is what I noticed during all my meetings abroad. There will be no aid for Lebanon before reforms are implemented”.
Regarding rejections of the Free Patriotic Movement -headed by Jebran Bassil the son-in-law of former president Michel Aoun- which argues that the government meetings are unconstitutional, Mikati affirmed that the government will continue to hold its sessions amid a presidential vacuum in order to run the important matters in the country.
During its meetings, “the government addresses urgent matters and priority files because they affect people’s health, livelihood and rights. As for the objectors, they are required to seek the election of a president as soon as possible, and then all this controversy will cease.”
Voicing hope that the vacuum at the top state post ends, he urged all political components in Lebanon to agree on a new president as soon as possible “because the country will continue to suffer from a basic structural defect without a president.”
On some calls encouraging a change to Lebanon’s system including the calls for federalism, Mikati said that any development of the system requires appropriate political conditions which Lebanon lacks at the moment.
“Adherence to the Taef Accord and work to implement it in its entirety without any partiality is needed at present. Until further notice, this agreement will remain the best framework for Lebanon,” he stressed.
“Any development or modernization of the system requires appropriate political conditions. I do not believe that the current political crisis and the difficult economic and financial conditions constitute a suitable atmosphere for discussing the amendment of the system,” he concluded.