KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait said on Sunday that a Lebanese response to a list of suggested measures to ease a diplomatic rift with Gulf countries is currently under consideration.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah said the response was a “positive step by the Lebanese authorities”.
He was speaking at a press conference following a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, which was attended by senior Lebanese diplomat Abdallah Bou Habib.
Sheikh Ahmed visited Beirut last week and handed Lebanese leaders a list of suggested measures to ease a diplomatic rift with the Gulf countries.
In October, Saudi Arabia and its allies suspended diplomatic relations with Lebanon after comments by then-information minister Georges Kordahi aired criticizing the military conflict in Yemen.
Kuwait recalled its ambassador from Beirut and also asked the charge d’affaires in Beirut to leave the emirate.
Kordahi resigned in November, in a bid to ease the impasse and French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris and Riyadh had agreed to engage fully in restoring diplomatic relations.
“It is now up to the parties concerned in Kuwait and the Gulf States to study this response in order to know what the next step for Lebanon will be,” Sheikh Ahmed said.
He thanked Beirut “for interacting” with the requests, which he said was a positive step.
The measures presented by Kuwait are part of wider efforts to restore confidence between Lebanon and its Gulf neighbors as Beirut grapples with an unprecedented financial crisis.
Conditions handed over to Beirut on January 22 include setting a timetable for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1559 which was passed in 2004 and calls for the disarmament of non-state militias in Liban.
The Lebanese draft letter had expressed respect for UN resolutions ‘to ensure civil peace and national stability’ and said Lebanon ‘will not be a launching pad for activities that violate Arab countries’ .
Despite Kordahi’s resignation, tensions between Lebanon and the Gulf states have persisted, primarily over Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Beirut called on Lebanese political parties to “end Hezbollah’s terrorist hegemony over all aspects of the state”.
Also on Sunday, the Maronite Christian patriarch said former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s decision to step down from politics and boycott May’s parliamentary elections should not be used as an excuse to call for a postponement.
Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi said he was surprised by the decision and said he hoped Sunnis would still participate so that the election “expresses the position of all Lebanese”.
Hariri’s decision has upended the electoral landscape, adding to the uncertainties facing the country.
“Given the importance of this parliamentary (election), we all have to deal with attempts to circumvent it,” Al-Rahi said, noting that the new parliament would elect President Michel Aoun’s replacement.
Referring to Hariri’s decision, he said “it is not permissible for some to invoke the new reality and promote the postponement of the legislative elections”.
He did not say who he was referring to.
The 2018 Lebanese elections gave a majority to Hezbollah and its allies, including Aoun. His opponents hope to reverse that in May.
Al-Rahi is a critic of Hezbollah, saying it has harmed Lebanon by dragging it into regional conflicts.
Although none of Lebanon’s main parties have called for a postponement of the elections, many observers believe this could suit a number of influential players.
Western states want the vote to take place on time.
Saad Hariri will leave in his wake a fractured Sunni community.
On Friday, his older brother, Bahaa, signaled he was entering politics, saying he would “continue the journey” of his father Rafik Al-Hariri.
Bahaa plans to endorse candidates but will not run himself.