BEIRUT — Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Friday that Tehran will support the election of anyone in Lebanon "who will accede to the presidency by consensus." The remark came at the end of an official visit to Lebanon that began Wednesday.
The country has been without a president since the end of former head of state Michel Aoun's term of office on Oct. 31.
During a press conference held Friday evening, Amir-Abdollahian assured that Lebanon "is always at the center of the interests" of Iran. He added that "the dialogue between Riyadh and Tehran will have positive repercussions for the region and Lebanon." The two countries announced the restoration of diplomatic ties last month.
Consensus and understanding
"Iran will accept any Lebanese personality who will accede to the presidency by consensus," Amir-Abdollahian said on Friday. "We encourage the completion of the political process."
"We believe that the influential political forces in Lebanon have the capacity and skills to continue the political process and elect a president," he added.
On Thursday, he said his country is committed to the triptych "army, people, resistance," in reference to Hezbollah. He also said that Tehran is ready to support "any agreement" between the various Lebanese political actors that could unblock the presidential election.
On Friday, he added that "Lebanon occupies an important place in the region and is at the forefront of the confrontation and resistance [against Israel]. It is always at the center of our interests."
Amir-Abdollahian, who is making his second visit to Beirut in three months — albeit his first since the normalization agreement between Tehran and Riyadh — maintained that "it goes without saying that the dialogue between Riyadh and Tehran will have positive repercussions on the region and Lebanon," stressing that he has invited his Saudi counterpart to visit Tehran soon.
"He assured me that he will respond favorably," he said.
The diplomat also denounced "failed US sanctions" on his country, which he described as "unjust."
Addressing the matter of energy cooperation between Iran and Lebanon, he argued that "the fundamental problems posed to the Iranian-Lebanese cooperation in the electricity file are US pressure and fear of sanctions."
Earlier on Friday, the Iranian minister toured South Lebanon, traveling close to the border with Israel, with Hezbollah MPs.
Lebanon has been without a president for nearly six months. Eleven parliamentary sessions, organized between September and January, failed to elect a successor to Aoun due to the lack of compromise between the Lebanese political parties.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal Movement, support the candidacy of the leader of the Marada Movement, Sleiman Frangieh. Some commentators claim that the latter could gain the support of Paris as part of a barter that would allow the election of a president close to the Iranian axis in exchange for the appointment of a prime minister supported by Riyadh.
However, Paris denies that it has a preferred presidential candidate in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and the main Christian parties in Lebanon, meanwhile, have indicated their opposition to such a deal.
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 Iran severed diplomatic relations in 2016, but announced on March 10 that they would restore them and reopen their respective embassies.