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Mikati: Primary focus is safeguarding security and stability in southern Lebanon

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati heads a cabinet meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 18, 2023. (AP Photo)
Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati heads a cabinet meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 18, 2023. (AP Photo)
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10 Oct 2023 12:10:58 GMT9
10 Oct 2023 12:10:58 GMT9
  • PM highlights need to expedite the election of a new president to strengthen country during turbulent times
  • FM Abdullah Bou Habib: We do not want Lebanon to be drawn into this ongoing war, and the international community also advises against our involvement

Najia Houssari

BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday emphasized that his government’s primary focus was safeguarding security and stability in southern Lebanon.

He highlighted Lebanon’s position during talks with leaders of various nations, while calling for Israel’s withdrawal from the remaining occupied Lebanese territories.

Concerns have recently intensified in Lebanon about the potential to become embroiled in the ongoing Gaza conflict.

Mikati reaffirmed the commitment of friendly countries to protect Lebanon from Palestinian turmoil.

He said it was necessary to expedite the election of a new president and resolve current political tension to strengthen Lebanon during turbulent times.

Mikati stated that the danger facing the nation concerned all Lebanese equally, regardless of political affiliation.

He also said that the escalating conflict required the international community to put pressure on Israel to pursue peace. He said this was based on established frameworks, particularly the Arab Peace Initiative issued during the Beirut Summit in 2002.

Mikati warned that any alternative action would only escalate violence and prove detrimental to all parties involved.

He noted that measures were in place to preserve peace along the UN-demarcated Blue Line, in accordance with UN resolution 1701, and to end Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty by air, sea, and land. 

Highlighting Lebanon’s stance, Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib said: “We do not want Lebanon to be drawn into this ongoing war, and the international community also advises against our involvement.”

The prevailing tension in the region has resulted in a cautious calm along the border, with Israel calling for settlers to seek shelter on the opposite side of the Lebanese border.

The Lebanese army said it had deployed forces in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon area of operations, conducting patrols and closely monitoring the situation in coordination with UNIFIL forces.

Amid intensifying anxiety in Lebanon, leading travel agencies have reported numerous cancellations of reservations by Lebanese and Arab visitors planning to travel to the country this week.

Scheduled cultural events and concerts have also been canceled.

Solidarity marches with Gaza have taken place in Palestinian refugee camps and several universities.

Elsewhere, the Central Bank of Lebanon has implemented specific measures to prevent any fluctuation in the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound against the dollar.

It has restricted the influx of Lebanese pound currency and implemented surveillance on speculators, while also intervening in the market to a limited extent.

Several Lebanese politicians have called for Lebanon not to get involved in the ongoing situation.

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said: “While we emphasize our support for and assistance to Palestinian freedom fighters in their struggle to attain their legitimate rights, we emphasize the necessity of Lebanon refraining from engaging in any confrontation with Israel.”

Siniora added that Lebanon was already grappling with a worsening political crisis.

He noted that the state and its regime were on the brink of collapse due to the presidential vacancy and the erosion of authority. 

Lebanon was also suffering from financial and economic crises, he said.

MP Pierre Bou Assi from the Lebanese Forces party expressed mistrust in the promises made by Hezbollah and the government.

He said he feared that Hezbollah would destroy Lebanon if it engaged in the battle in Gaza.

The MP warned against dragging Lebanon into a war without a clear decision from the government and parliament.

Following a joint meeting between the Meeting of Our Lady of the Mountain and the Lebanese National Council to Lift the Iranian Occupation, the two groups conveyed their concern over the precarious and dangerous events unfolding in Lebanon.

They highlighted the possibility of “Hezbollah, Iran, or Israel involving Lebanon in a cycle of violence, the origins of which are known in Gaza but the outcome of which remains uncertain.”

They also emphasized that dangerous events were taking place in the absence of the Lebanese state while Hezbollah monopolized the national decision-making process.

The two groups called for an immediate Cabinet meeting to establish a national crisis cell capable of undertaking necessary communications to protect the Lebanese people — and to caution Hezbollah against dragging Lebanon into “military adventures that would inevitably result in death and destruction to all Lebanese.”

They also stressed that any solution must be based on international resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative, and by establishing a two-state solution.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Lebanon urged Americans in Beirut to exercise caution amid the unpredictable situation in Israel.

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