Bassil to travel to Europe to meet with senior EU leaders
BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil will travel to Europe Tuesday to meet with senior European leaders, as EU states and the bloc again voiced support for Lebanon’s independence and stability.
Foreign Ministry sources told The Daily Star that although the visit remains tentative, Bassil is scheduled to meet with senior French and Russian leaders later this week, as well as the EU’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.
Mogherini called Monday for “no external interference” in Lebanon, but refused to comment on whether or not she believed there had already been external interference in the country.
“We believe it is essential to avoid importing into Lebanon regional conflicts, regionals tensions that have to stay out of the country,” she said in a news conference.
Mogherini said that the bloc’s foreign ministers in a meeting in Brussels Monday had voiced unanimous support for Lebanon’s “unity and stability.”
Bassil’s meetings with European leaders come ahead of an extraordinary emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo.
Saudi Arabia called for the summit Sunday with the support of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The request was approved by the bloc’s current head, Djibouti.
The emergency meeting on Iran’s “violations” in the region will be only the 12th such emergency summit since the organization’s founding in 1945. According to a memorandum shown to Egyptian State News the meeting, which will bring together 21 Arab states, was requested by Saudi Arabia after a missile was fired at Riyadh on Nov. 4.
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have blamed Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Following the missile strike, Saudi Arabia accused Iran of “direct military aggression.” The memo also included claims by Riyadh of Iranian involvement in the “sabotage” of an oil pipeline in Bahrain Friday.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed “fears that the country [Lebanon] will become a puppet of Syria, Saudi Arabia or any other country.”
In a statement Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian echoed Mogherini’s support for Lebanon’s sovereignty.
EU leaders have voiced support for Lebanon’s ‘unity and stability’
“In order for there to be a political solution in Lebanon, political officials must certainly have a total freedom of action and non-intervention is the fundamental principle,” he said.
Le Drian will visit Riyadh Thursday, following French President Emmanuel Macron’s unscheduled trip there last week.
Macron also spoke by phone Sunday with United Nations SecretaryGeneral Antonio Guterres and the two officials agreed to take stock of the situation Wednesday on the sidelines of the COP23 climate conference in Bonn.
A statement from Macron’s office said there had been “a certain easing” in the situation while adding that it remains to be seen “what is really going to happen in the coming days.” –