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Saudi ambassador urges Lebanon to accelerate presidential election

May 16, 2023 at 5:33 pm

Saudi Chargé d’Affairs Walid al-Bukhari shakes hands with former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Baadba on November 22, 2017 [STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon has renewed his call for the country to speed up its presidential elections, amid an ongoing gridlock in the process.

According to the Saudi newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi ambassador, Walid Al-Bukhari, met Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, yesterday during a tour with Lebanese political figures, after which he stressed the importance of the country and its people electing a president, half a year after former President, Michel Aoun, ended his term without a successor to replace him.

“We [Saudis] share the same desire with the international community to see the completion of the presidential elections [in Lebanon] as soon as possible,” Bukhari was quoted as saying. “I want Lebanon to be, as it was, an oasis of thought and culture of life, and for its people to enjoy prosperity.”

As it stands, Lebanon’s political parties are still agreeing on the presidential candidates themselves, with the Shia parties Hezbollah and the Amal movement supporting Suleiman Frangieh – the head of Christian party, the Marada Movement – while the opposition is yet to agree on a candidate to support.

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Opposition parties are currently divided between backing Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, former lawmaker, Salah Honien and former ministers, Jihad Azour and Ziad Baroud. It also remains unclear whether Gebran Bassil, the head of the former president’s Free Patriotic Movement, would join the opposition in rejecting Frangieh’s candidacy.

According to the paper, sources from the Christian-based Lebanese Forces party assured it that opposition parties are in talks to unify their position, and that if that party could agree with the Free Patriotic Movement, they would both secure a parliamentary majority with over 65 votes.

Those sources also indicated that Bassil has already made a decision on who to support – without disclosing who – but that he is refraining from announcing that decision as he is trying to ensure Hezbollah would first back down from supporting Frangieh.

The paper also quoted the sources as renewing their call for Parliamentary Speaker, Nabih Berri, to hold open sessions to elect the president, saying that it would lead to naming a candidate who reflects the aspirations of the Lebanese people instead of an Iran-backed candidate who works for the ‘axis of resistance’.

Saudi ambassador Bukhari’s insistence on the continuation of progress in Lebanon’s presidential election came barely a week after he reaffirmed Riyadh’s neutrality and non-interference in the Lebanese electoral process, after stating earlier this month that the Kingdom does “not accept the ongoing presidential vacuum that threatens the stability and unity” of the country and its people.

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