BEIRUT: US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale is the latest foreign diplomat to chime in on Lebanon’s political stalemate, urging officials on Wednesday to “show sufficient flexibility to form a government.”
Hale, a seasoned diplomat in the Middle East, made the comments following a meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at the latter’s Ain al-Tineh residence in Beirut.
“It is time now to call on Lebanese leaders to show sufficient flexibility to form a government that is willing and capable of true and fundamental reform,” Hale said.
Hale is on a two-day trip to Lebanon aimed at pressing leaders to reach an agreement on a government that can act as “a partner” to the US and the international community.
“Sustained cooperation will be needed if we are going to see transparent reforms adopted and implemented,” he noted.
Earlier in the day, Hale met with caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbi and is expected to meet with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt.
He will also hold a sit down with Saad Hariri, who was tasked with forming a government more than five months ago but has seen his efforts falter amid political infighting with President Michel Aoun.
“My message in today’s meetings is simple: America and the international community are ready to help. But we can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner,” Hale concluded.
Following his meeting with Hale, Hariri will travel to Moscow on a quest dubbed a “financial aid mission.”
The premier-designate is scheduled to meet officials including President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and will seek Russian assistance in rebuilding the Beirut port and constructing power plants, his advisor George Shaaban was quoted by Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news outlet, as saying.
“Lebanon needs economic and political assistance. This is why Prime Minister Saad Hariri will come to Russia because he knows that Russia has good relations with all political forces in Lebanon, and has relations with all countries in the region, as well as with other countries, which influence the situation in Lebanon,” Shaaban reportedly said.
Separately, the RIA news agency cited Shaaban as saying “there is a need to build new power plants that will be able to supply the country with 24-hour electricity …. We will look to Russia and its possible assistance to Lebanon, both in these sectors and others.”
Hariri will also attempt to secure Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines as Lebanon continues to struggle with a slow inoculation campaign.
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly identified David Hale as the US under secretary of state for Middle East affairs, a non-existent position. He is the under secretary of state for political affairs. L’Orient Today regrets the error.