BEIRUT — Western and regional powers warned they will reconsider "all ties" with Lebanon if Parliament fails to elect a president amid a worsening financial crisis, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati's office said Monday.
The warning came after ambassadors and representatives of nations that participated in last week's Paris meeting met with Mikati in Beirut.
Ambassadors from the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt also met separately with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Monday, Berri's press office said.
Lebanon has been without a president since Michel Aoun's mandate expired in October and a caretaker cabinet with limited capabilities has been overseeing government responsibilities, all while the country's financial collapse stretches into its third year.
"Failing to elect a new president means all ties with Lebanon will be reconsidered," a joint statement from the five countries said.
"Real support" for Lebanon will only come after a president is elected and after reforms needed to access billions of dollars in loans from international lenders are enacted, the statement added.
The meetings, which happened at Ain al-Tineh and the Grand Serail, respectively, included US Ambassador Dorothy Shea, French Ambassador Anne Grillo, Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Alawi, Qatari Ambassador Ibrahim Abdul Aziz Al-Sahlawi and Deputy Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Lebanon Fares al-Amoudi.
Amoudi replaced Saudi Ambassador Waleed Bukhari, who is currently outside of Lebanon.
During the Paris meeting last week, the participants discussed the election of Lebanon's next president, the future president's program, the ideal candidate profile, their political line and their economic and financial journey.
An Arab diplomat who attended the Paris meeting told L’Orient Today last week that "the participants agreed that the Lebanese crisis will not be resolved by simply electing the future president.”
Sources told L’Orient Today that “the first [Paris] meeting was considered positive by several diplomatic sources concerned, especially since the five countries agreed on the main lines, in particular respect for the Constitution, the Taif Agreement and international resolutions."
The Paris meeting represented a “roadmap for Lebanon to break the deadlock and be able to benefit from international aid. The ball is therefore in the court of the Lebanese, knowing that France will be active in informing those responsible for the results of the discussions,” a Western diplomat told L’Orient Today.
"If positive results are recorded, these countries will be able to meet again or bring together Lebanese protagonists around a table, in Beirut or in another capital, to finalize the agreement,” concluded the same diplomatic source.
The international community has long urged Lebanese leaders to end the political stalemate and stem the financial meltdown.
But decision-making in Lebanese politics can take months of negotiations between foreign-backed sectarian leaders. Former president Michel Aoun was elected in 2016 after a presidential vacancy that lasted more than two years.
In the absence of political action, the parallel market value of the Lebanese lira hit three consecutive depreciation records on Monday— reaching LL69,000 to the US dollar.
Parliament has held 11 unsuccessful presidential electoral sessions, the most recent one on Jan. 19.
Lawmakers supporting the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah and those opposing the group are divided on Lebanon's next leader, but neither side has a clear majority.
Two Lebanese MPs have been holding a sit-in in Parliament for nearly a month to protest the inaction of their fellow lawmakers.