BEIRUT — Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati Saturday urged Arab countries to "help Lebanon hold an internal dialogue," in remarks a day after the 32nd Arab League summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The pan-Arab institution Friday called "all Lebanese parties to dialogue" in electing a head of state to pull Lebanon out of its ongoing economic crisis.
Lebanon has been without a president since Oct. 31, 2022, when Michel Aoun's term ended.
'No need for a new Taif'
"The Lebanese did not help each other," Mikati said in an interview with al-Arabiya and al-Hadath TV channels. "We need dialogue. If the Lebanese helped each other, they could have chosen a president."
He called on "Arab brothers to help Lebanon hold an internal dialogue," remarking that, in his view, Lebanon "does not need a new Taif agreement," but should "continue applying the old agreement" concluded in 1989 under the auspices of Saudi Arabia to end 15 years of civil war.
The head of the caretaker government also stressed that "Lebanon needs the financial support of its Arab brothers," noting that "if the country had a president, the situation would have been much better."
"Lebanon is still sick. It needs its Arab brothers to heal," he said. On the regional level, Mikati said that "any political agreement in the region will have repercussions in Lebanon."
In his speech in Jeddah Friday, Mikati said that the crisis in his country "has become more complex with the presidential vacancy," urging Riyadh to "support its brothers in Lebanon."
Lebanon's MPs have failed to elect a new president, due to the lack of consensus on a candidate, as is customary in Lebanon.
While Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have officially announced their support for the leader of the Marada Party Sleiman Frangieh, who is facing a veto from other Christian parties, the opposition camp still
seems to be divided.
Riyadh has made it known that it does not have a veto against any presidential candidate, although it is calling for consensus.
For his part, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Abdellatif Derian, the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon, said Saturday that "Arab solidarity with Lebanon encourages the Lebanese to elect a president of the Republic as soon as possible," according to the state-run National News Agency.
"The country can no longer hold nor continue without the election of a president, the formation of a new government, the activation of institutions' work and the return of political, economic and social stability," he said.
"This is a collective responsibility that it is incumbent on members of parliament and officials to assume," pleaded the mufti, who is known to be close to Saudi Arabia.
Head of diplomacy chews gum
Meanwhile, images the Lebanese delegation attending the Arab summit went viral on social media Saturday when Lebanon's caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib was captured chewing gum, while Mikati who was delivering his speech in front of him.
In the video circulating on social media, Lebanon's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Fawzi Kabbara, is seen tapping Minister Bou Habib on the shoulder before slipping him a piece of paper.
Bou Habib reads the note and immediately throws out his gum. Some in Lebanon who felt that Bou Habib's attitude is damaging to Lebanon's image shared their sentiments on social media.
The 32nd Arab League summit was the first since the restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran last March.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was reinstated in the Arab League after being expelled for his crackdown on protests that in 2011 devolved into a bloody civil war, also took part in the summit.