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After hints at Saudi rapprochement, Iran’s Foreign Minister arrives in Beirut

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrives in Lebanon from Syria at the head of an Iranian delegation

After hints at Saudi rapprochement, Iran’s Foreign Minister arrives in Beirut

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian upon his arrival in Damascus on March 23, 2022. (Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian returned to Beirut for the second time in the span of five months.

He arrived today in Lebanon from Syria at the head of a delegation. The visit comes one day after indications that Saudi Arabia may be planning to re-engage with Lebanon, following the diplomatic row in October 2021.

According to sources close to Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who is scheduled to meet with Abdollahian today, these two developments are a mere coincidence, as official trips are scheduled in advance. Hezbollah sources say the same.

“There is no link between these two developments,” a Hezbollah official told L'Orient-Le Jour on condition of anonymity.

He also assured Mikati getting back in Riyadh’s good graces will not provoke the party.

In a Saudi statement, the Lebanese premier, who is known for trying to maintain good relations with all stakeholders, including Hezbollah, was praised for his Monday remarks, in which he stressed Lebanon’s willingness to normalize relations with the Gulf.

Riyadh praised Mikati’s statement, expressing hope that this “could allow Lebanon to recover its role and place, both regionally and internationally.”

“Mikati’s position does not bother us. We also don’t have any problem with Saudi Arabia’s re-engagement in Lebanon,” the Hezbollah official added.

Mohammad Obeid, a political analyst close to the party, seemed to concur.

“There is no connection between the Saudi overtures to Lebanon and the Iranian diplomat’s visit to Beirut. The kingdom’s re-engagement in Lebanon is the result of French efforts,” he said, referring to the meeting that took place recently in Paris between Patrick Durel, an advisor to the French president for Middle East affairs, Walid Bukhari, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon and Nizar Aloula, representing the Saudi royal court, as well as Khaled Saadoun, a senior official of the Saudi intelligence service.

During the meeting, Durel, who has always been involved in the Lebanese dossier, allegedly suggested that Bukhari return to Beirut.

‘The favorite battleground for Saudi-Iranian wars’

Karim Bitar, Director of the Institute of Political Science at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, does not seem to share the same reading of events.

He told L’Orient-Le Jour that Abdollahian’s visit to Beirut carries a message to Mikati. “It is a way to remind the prime minister of the need to keep his distance from Riyadh, which is planning to politically return to Lebanon,” Bitar said.

He also believes that the Iranian senior official’s visit is seen in the framework of the Lebanese legislative elections of May 15.

Sunni leader Saad Hariri decided to boycott the polls, leaving a political vacuum in the Sunni community, which Hezbollah is accused of wanting to take advantage of in a bid to bring to Parliament Sunni figures who are close to it.

“As with all elections, Lebanon is once again the favorite battleground for the Saudi-Iranian wars. While the French and the Arabs do not want to see Hezbollah take advantage of the Sunni vacuum left by Saad Hariri, the Iranians do not want their camp to lose the majority in Parliament,” Bitar said.

“Hezbollah does not need to assert itself as a major player on the local scene because the balance of power is already in its favor,” Obeid said, ruling out any link between the legislative elections and Abdollahian's visit.

The Iranian foreign minister’s tour in Lebanon and Syria, two countries where Tehran exerts influence through its local allies, comes in a regional and international context marked by the ongoing Vienna talks that could soon result in an agreement between Tehran and world powers on the nuclear issue.

“Tehran and the world powers are closer than ever to an agreement,” Abdollahian said yesterday from Damascus.

“The Iranian minister has come to keep the Lebanese and Syrian officials informed of the ongoing negotiations in Vienna,” said the Hezbollah source.

He added that Abdollahian will naturally meet with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah during his stay in Beirut.

This article was Après l’ouverture saoudienne, le ministre iranien des AE débarque à Beyrouthin French in L'Orient-Le Jour. 


Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian returned to Beirut for the second time in the span of five months.He arrived today in Lebanon from Syria at the head of a delegation. The visit comes one day after indications that Saudi Arabia may be planning to re-engage with Lebanon, following the diplomatic row in October 2021.According to sources close to Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who is...