BEIRUT — A new government could be formed next week, Hezbollah's No. 2 Naim Qassem said Saturday, joining the optimism of other Lebanese political parties. Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati's previous cabinet has been operating in a caretaker capacity since May 22, following the 2022 parliamentary elections, due to a political deadlock between him and president Michel Aoun over the cabinet formation.
"A new government could be formed next week after the many differences between the president and the prime minister-designate have been ironed out," Qassem said at a partisan ceremony in Beirut. This is a "positive step that will facilitate the election of a new president to achieve the solutions we want to put in place in Lebanon," he said.
The risk of a both a presidential and governmental vacuum hangs over Lebanon if Aoun's term expires on Oct. 31 without a new government having been formed yet. In recent days, several political parties, including Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah, have said they expect a new government to be formed soon. In a joint statement Thursday, Saudi Arabia, France and the United States urged Lebanese authorities to hold "timely elections" and said, "It is critical to elect a president who can unite the Lebanese people and work with regional and international actors to overcome the current crisis."
Commenting on the donation of Iranian fuel to Lebanon to support its power production amid severe electricity rationing, Qassem affirmed that Tehran "has definitely committed to granting 600,000 tons of fuel" to the country. "Measures must be taken by the Lebanese authorities" to faciliate these imports, he added.
Hezbollah's deputy leader also pointed to the fact that the United States has not yet facilitated the import of Jordanian electricity and Egyptian gas to Lebanon via Syria, a project that Washington had announced in 2021 in order to help Lebanon with its electricity crisis. Both elements of the project are still pending. It is still unclear whether Lebanon, by receiving the benefits of the deals through Syria, will be exempt from US Caesar Act sanctions targeting any country, entity or individual collaborating with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hezbollah's No. 2 refused to comment on the delineation of the maritime border with Israel, while indirect negotiations led by the American envoy Amos Hochstein seem likely to lead to an agreement soon. "When the Lebanese state says that the proposal [of the American mediator in the Lebanese-Israeli maritime border negotiations Hochstein] is in line with Lebanon's rights, we will consider that Lebanon has regained its rights," Qassem said, adding he was waiting for a written response from Hochstein to the Lebanese government.
Washington reported on Friday progress in maritime border negotiations; however, on the same day, Mikati said that "things are not so clear" and that Hochstein "informed [him] of some measures that the emissary considers positive, without them being final so far."
BEIRUT — A new government could be formed next week, Hezbollah's No. 2 Naim Qassem said Saturday, joining the optimism of other Lebanese political parties. Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati's previous cabinet has been operating in a caretaker capacity since May 22, following the 2022 parliamentary elections, due to a political deadlock between him and president Michel Aoun over the cabinet...