Home » Qatari Official to Visit Lebanon in Ongoing Efforts to Break Presidential Impasse
Global News Lebanon News Politics Qatar

Qatari Official to Visit Lebanon in Ongoing Efforts to Break Presidential Impasse

Authorities in Qatar have yet to publicly comment on the reported visit.

A Qatari delegate is due to visit Lebanon amid ongoing efforts led by France to break months of deadlock in Beirut, Al-Jadeed TV reported on Saturday.

While the report fell short of naming the Qatari delegate, it comes amid months-long efforts led by French Presidential Envoy for Lebanon Jean-Yves Le Drian to elect a new Lebanese leader, following former President Michel Aoun’s exit from office in October last year.

A quintet group—consisting of five parties including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United States, and France— has since convened in an attempt to break the months-long impasse. The group met in Paris in February before meeting once again in Doha in July.

According to Lebanese media, heavyweight regional mediator Qatar is now expected to replace France as the main party pushing for progress in Lebanon.

“This points to the disunity of the five-nation committee, seeing as the Qataris and Americans are not betting on the French initiative,” Al-Jadeed added.

However, a separate report by Al-Akhbar said “it is premature to conclude that the French initiative in the presidential file has ended.” The report noted that “the political forces are awaiting an imminent Qatari drive.”

“There are reports saying that Doha will not enter the Lebanese arena except after Paris officially exits it, amid information that Saudi Arabia and the US are willing to show leniency towards the solutions that Doha will carry, contrary to what happened with Paris,” the report added.

Doha’s hosting of the ‘Quintet Meeting’ in July saw the group build on discussions from previous meetings. 

At the time, Qatar’s Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al Khulaifi represented the Gulf state months after he embarked on an “exploratory visit” to Lebanon.

The issue of Lebanon’s vacant presidency dominated the agenda at the Doha meeting, where the group stressed “the urgent need for Lebanon’s leadership to expedite presidential elections” and called for the implementation of much-needed “imperative economic reform”.

The quintet also discussed “concrete options with respect to implementing measures against those who are blocking progress” in the election of a president.

“While our five countries underscored our commitment to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, we noted with concern that nearly nine months after the end of President Michel Aoun’s term, Lebanon’s political leaders have yet to elect a successor,” the quintet’s final communique read.

Crises-stricken Lebanon has failed to elect a president a total of 12 times since former President Aoun left office.

The latest delay has been widely attributed to differences over Hezbollah-backed, Christian politician Suleiman Frangieh, whose grandfather—also named Suleiman Frangieh—served as Lebanon’s president from 1970-1976.

Since the start of the year, potential candidates have emerged, including Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, seen by Lebanese media as the “preferred” candidate by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

However, Qatar has repeatedly dismissed such claims and stressed that the decision on who takes up leadership remains in the hands of the Lebanese.

Qatar’s efforts in Lebanon

Qatar has long been involved in diplomatic efforts in Lebanon.

Doha played a significant role in Lebanon previously, most notably in 2008 when it held talks that resulted in an agreement between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah. 

Those meetings followed an 18-month political crisis that had raised fears over another deadly civil war that would have triggered similar scenes from 1975-1990. 

However, the 2008 talks led to an agreement that stipulated the parties would decide on an electoral law, with General Michel Suleiman being named as the country’s president at the time. 

More recently, Qatar has been lending a helping hand to key Lebanese institutions through monetary aid.

Last week, the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) announced a $30 million fuel aid package for the Lebanese army under a six-month arrangement. Qatar had also pledged $60 million to the Lebanese military in 2022, increasing its financial commitment to Lebanon.

Worst economic downfall

Analysts believe breaking Lebanon’s political impasse is imperative to resolving the country’s economy, which has been facing its worst downfall since the civil war. 

Over the course of four years, the Lebanese Lira has lost more than 90% of its value to the US dollar. To date, Lebanese citizens are unable to access their savings from banks, leading to some incidents of bank break-ins for those desperate for cash. 

In recent months, former Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh faced an investigation in Lebanon, France as well as at least four other European countries over accusations of money laundering, embezzlement and bribery.

Last month, the US imposed sanctions on Salameh, who had resigned in August, for his “corrupt and unlawful actions”.

“By using his position to enrich himself, his family, and his associates in apparent contravention of Lebanese law, Salameh contributed to Lebanon’s endemic corruption and perpetuated the perception that elites in Lebanon need not abide by the same rules that apply to all Lebanese people,” Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said at the time.

Source : Doha News