Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived overnight in Lebanon on an official visit to meet with Lebanese leaders.
He was welcomed at the airport by a delegation from Amal movement and Hizbullah, along with the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, the Director of Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a delegation of religious scholars.
Lawmaker Ayyoub Hmayyed representing Speaker Nabih Berri praised the Iranian “pivotal role in Lebanon’s victory in the July war against Israel and in the liberation (of Lebanon from the Israeli occupation.)”
Abdollahian from his side congratulated Lebanon for the new government and declared Iran’s “firm position” to support Lebanon.
Earlier in the day, the Iranian official held talks with President Michel Aoun, where he expressed the Islamic Republic’s support for Lebanon.
He also met with Speaker Berri, Prime Minister Najib Miqati and with his Lebanese counterpart Abdullah Bou Habib.
Abdollahian will also have talks with representatives of Palestinian factions and forces at the Iranian embassy in Beirut.
Abdollahian said he discussed with officials in Beirut the “positive” effects of ongoing talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and blamed foreign troops based in the Middle East for regional instability.
He also said nuclear talks to revive Tehran’s now-tattered 2015 accord with world powers, stalled since June, will resume soon.
“We have positively evaluated the continuation of Iranian-Saudi negotiations,” Amir-Abdollahian told reporters after meeting Berri, referring to multiple rounds of discussions in Baghdad since the first direct talks between regional foes Riyadh and Tehran took place in early April.
The latest round was held late last month, according to Iraqi officials, marking the first such meeting between the two sides since a new president was sworn in in Tehran. Those at the meeting discussed “pending issues between the two countries according to a previously agreed on a roadmap, including diplomatic representation between the two countries,” according to one Iraqi official.
An improvement of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia is likely to have positive effects in Lebanon, a small nation that has often served as a proxy battlefield for tensions between the two regional powers.
Lebanon is deeply divided between a coalition backed by the West and Gulf Arab countries, and another group supported by Iran and led by Hizbullah.
In an apparent reference to U.S. forces deployed in the region, Abdollahian said: “We consider the presence of foreign forces in the region as the main factor for instability and all problems.”
Some Lebanese opposed to Iran’s influence in Lebanon held a small protest against the foreign minister’s visit in Beirut on Wednesday, carrying banners that read “Iran out.”
Last month, dozens of trucks carrying Iranian diesel began arriving in Lebanon, part of a series of deliveries organized by Hizbullah to help ease crippling shortages in the cash-strapped country. Lebanese authorities said they were not involved in the shipment, which violates U.S. sanctions placed on Tehran.
The third Iranian tanker carrying diesel arrived in the Syrian port of Baniyas this week and the fuel will be shipped to Lebanon by tanker trucks.