An anti-government protester holds up a Lebanese flag as army soldiers stand guard during a demonstration against deteriorating economic conditions as politicians are deadlocked over forming a new government, in the town of Jal El-Dib, north of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP)
Moscow move comes after Iran-backed factions block Macron reforms
BEIRUT: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov will visit Lebanon to discuss support for the crisis-hit country following the failure of French efforts to form an independent Lebanese government.
Bogdanov, the Russian president’s special envoy for the Middle East and North Africa, told Lebanese Democratic Party (LDP) leader Talal Arslan on Tuesday that “efforts and dialogue are needed to reach a solution that gets Lebanon out of the suffocating crisis it is going through.”
In a meeting in Moscow on Monday, Bogdanov told Lebanese Ambassador Shawki Bou Nassar that he will visit Beirut in late October for talks with senior officials.
It will be the first visit by a Russian official since the Beirut port blast on Aug. 4 devastated large areas of the capital and plunged the country into political turmoil.
The Russian move follows the failure of French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to form an independent Lebanese government and introduce reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help the country avoid a financial and economic meltdown.
Last Sunday, Macron gave Lebanese officials a six-week deadline to form a new government, accusing Lebanese leaders of betraying their pledges to him during a high-profile visit to Beirut in early September.
The accusations were directed at the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Amal Movement factions over obstruction of Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib’s plans for a new government.
Both factions were widely criticized in the wake of Adib’s resignation on Saturday and accused of sabotaging the French initiative.
On Monday, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said that Tehran rejected claims of “external interference in Lebanon’s affairs.”
Amal Movement said that Macron’s accusations, as well as attempts to blame Amal Movement and Hezbollah, “are far from the facts and the realities of discussions with the prime Minister-designate.”
The political faction said that its leader, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, “is at the forefront of those keen to preserve Lebanon’s stability and the unity of its people.”
Berri’s political aide, former minister Ali Hassan Khalil, has been been hit by US sanctions on a string of charges, including corruption.
Zafer Nasser, secretary-general of the Progressive Socialist Party, told Arab News that the objectives of Bogdanov’s visit remain unclear and Lebanon must continue to support Macron’s efforts.
“The French initiative is our last chance and we must hold on to it,” he said.
With Lebanon’s central bank expected to begin reducing subsidies for the import of hydrocarbons in coming weeks, gas stations around the country experienced shortages on Tuesday due to delays in imports.
According to a representative of the Gas Station Owners Syndicate, George Brax, a partial reduction of subsidies will raise the price of a can of gasoline to between 37,000 and 40,000 Lebanese pounds, while with a total reduction, it will reach between 65,000 and 70,000 Lebanese pounds.
“If the dollar exchange rate continues to rise, the price of a can of gasoline may reach 85,000 Lebanese pounds,” he said.