BEIRUT — Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who is on an official visit to Beirut, said Thursday he encouraged all Lebanese parties to "speed up" negotiations to reach an agreement on electing a new president, adding that Tehran is ready to support "any agreement" that can end the now six-month vacuum.
"Iran hopes for the best for Lebanon and we encourage all Lebanese parties to speed up the process of the presidential election," the minister said in a press conference with his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bou Habib, at Bustros Palace.
"Lebanese officials and all parties have the capacity and expertise to reach an agreement on the presidential election," he said, asserting "support to any election and any agreement reached between all parties on the presidential election."
"We call on all foreign parties to support this deadline without interference," he added.
Economy, trade and tourism
In addition to the presidential election, Amir-Abdollahian and Bou Habib also discussed "cooperation between Lebanon and the desire to strengthen relations in all areas, including economy trade and tourism," according to the Iranian foreign minister.
He also announced that he will give a press conference at the Iranian embassy in Beirut on Friday at 4 p.m.
Lebanon has been without a president since the end of Michel Aoun's term on Oct. 31.
Eleven parliamentary sessions, held between Sept. and Jan., failed to elect a successor to the founder of the Free Patriotic Current, due to a lack of compromise between Lebanon's political parties.
Until now, Iran allies Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have supported the candidacy of the Marada leader, Sleiman Frangieh. Critics have claimed that the latter enjoys the support of Paris in the framework of a barter that would allow the election of a president close to the Iranian axis and a Prime Minister — Nawaf Salam — who could be supported by Riyadh.
However, France has denied that it has a preferred presidential candidate in Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia has so far refused to accept this barter deal, joining the main Christian parties in Lebanon, the rivals of the FPM, including the Lebanese Forces headed by Samir Geagea.
In a televised interview on Wednesday evening, Frangieh, nevertheless, called for dialogue with the other parties.
Peace in the region
Some observers see the agreement reached last month between Riyadh and Tehran as an opening for a possible election of the Marada leader. The Saudi kingdom and the Islamic Republic severed diplomatic relations in 2016 but announced on March 10 that they would restore ties and reopen their respective embassies.
Bou Habib mentioned the Chinese-brokered agreement when he spoke at the press conference Thursday with his Iranian counterpart.
"We hope that the agreement reached in China will bring good things to Lebanon. Any regional agreement, between neighboring countries, is a good thing" for the country.
This agreement is also "important for peace in the region," he added, mentioning potential positive repercussions on Yemen and the Palestinian cause.
He added that the Iranian minister had also "offered Lebanon help in the electricity sector."
"My ministry is not directly concerned but I will transfer the offer to the officials who are," Bou Habib said.
After leaving the Bustros Palace, the Iranian minister met caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail. This is Amir-Abdollahian's second visit to Beirut in three months, after a visit in mid-January.