| 2 March 2024, Saturday |

Saudi envoy voices discontent over Lebanese officials’ performance

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari on Wednesday held meetings with the French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo, the United States Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea and the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon Abdel Aal al-Qunai.

According to reports, there was a general dissatisfaction with the performance of Lebanese officials with regard to the formation of a new government.

Bukhari urged Lebanese political parties on Tuesday to quickly agree a new cabinet to pull the country from financial crisis after months of political wrangling.

A standoff between Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Saad al-Hariri, who was designated as prime minister last October, has delayed a deal on a new cabinet as Lebanon’s worst crisis in decades spirals.

“I stressed the need to put the higher national interest first to launch drastic reforms that can restore the international community’s confidence in Lebanon,” Saudi ambassador Walid Bukhari said after meeting Aoun in his first visit to the presidential palace since 2019.

Foreign donors have said they will not bail out the state, which is drowning in debt, unless Lebanese politicians tackle graft and waste – the root causes of the collapse.

Gulf Arab monarchies that once came to Lebanon’s rescue have kept their distance, alarmed by the expanding role of the Hezbollah movement, which is backed by their arch-rival, Iran.

Lebanon’s political deadlock intensified this week in a public war of words between Aoun and Hariri, a three-time premier traditionally aligned with the Gulf monarchies.

After the Tuesday meeting with Aoun, who is a political ally of Hezbollah, the Saudi envoy said the Kingdom stood by Lebanon and its sovereignty.

He also reiterated the importance of a U.N. resolution that called for all militias in Lebanon to disarm, in a reference to Hezbollah’s arsenal.