Lebanese cabinet member: ‘international community closed to us’

Unclear if statement reflects government intent to resign.
Thursday 02/07/2020
A file picture of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab (L) meeting with Defence Minister Zeina Akar Adra. (AFP)
A file picture of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab (L) meeting with Defence Minister Zeina Akar Adra. (AFP)

BEIRUT – For the first time since the formation of the current government in Lebanon, a prominent member of Hassan Diab’s cabinet has publicly admitted that “the international community is closed to us.”

The statement was made in an interview with journalists by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Zeina Akar Adra (an Orthodox Christian married to a Sunni).

Adra spends most of her time at the government palace where the prime minister is, and that led political sources to consider that her words reflected the state of confusion in which the current government, founded five months ago and controlled by Hezbollah, evolves, lacking coordination and cohesion.

Adra also admitted that the international community’s reluctance to deal with Lebanon was a “political decision," noting that external powers invoked the question of absence of “reforms” to justify their ban on foreign aid to Lebanon.

Lebanese political sources could not determine whether or not the deputy prime minister's declarations indicated the possibility of the current government being pushed to resign. They pointed out, however, that the real problem facing President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah at the same time is former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s refusal to form a new government except under certain non-negotiable conditions.

The sources indicated that these conditions are not acceptable, at least not yet, for Aoun and his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, and especially for Hezbollah, which is adamant on having representation in any Lebanese government.

Meanwhile, the French minister of foreign affairs expressed on Wednesday his country's concern about the crisis in Lebanon and said that social discontent could lead to an escalation of violence.

“The situation is alarming in light of the existence of an economic, financial, social and humanitarian crisis, which is now exacerbated by the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jean-Yves Le Drian during a French Parliament session.

Le Drian called on the Lebanese government to start implementing needed reforms so that the international community can extend a helping hand to Lebanon, indicating that he will visit Lebanon soon to clearly inform the authorities of this.

American pressure on the political class in Lebanon also increased in the context of a plan to screen between genuine Hezbollah supporters on the one hand and those who are participating in the current Hezbollah government to serve particular interests on the other, especially since the continued control of the pro-Iranian party over Lebanese institutions will double US sanctions on the country.

The recent controversy over statements made by US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea revealed that the Lebanese decision has become hostage to Hezbollah, and this would reinforce the American administration's tendency to increase pressure on the country already experiencing an unprecedented economic and financial crisis.

Observers point out that the “solidarity” that the current poles of power are keen on highlighting at every successive meeting between them, and their statements that tend to absolve the government of any wrongdoing and accuse foreign powers of aggravating the situation, are nothing more than tranquillisers meant to sedate regular Lebanese citizen who find themselves facing imminent hunger in light of soaring prices of basic commodities.

Talking to reporters, Adra insisted that the current government was not put in place simply to buy extra time, stressing at the same time the need for all Lebanese to “join hands to succeed, and if we all come together as one team, we can raise Lebanon up without waiting for foreign aid.”

Adra stressed that the government, despite all the talk about resignations, “continues to work and produce and there are no splits within it.” “When I get to a point where I can't work anymore, I will quit. We came to work and persist in working,” she said.