BEIRUT — On Wednesday evening, during his address to the 78th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called on the Lebanese Parliament to "play its sovereign role by electing a president."
In his speech, reported by the Lebanese National News Agency, Mikati also emphasized "the weight of successive waves of immigration" on Lebanon, a topic he says he has frequently raised with the international community.
"I sincerely hope that the Lebanese Parliament will play its sovereign role by electing a president in the coming period," Mikati said in his speech. "I can only thank the Committee of Five for the role it is playing, as well as the French initiative to help bring this ballot [the presidential election] to a successful conclusion," he continued. The Group of Five, comprised of France, United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt, reportedly met yesterday in New York to discuss the Lebanese political impasse, but no statement was issued at the end of their meeting.
Several media outlets reported a dispute between France and the United States. The Americans, who were the firmest, but also the Saudis, insisted on the need to set a timetable for the French initiative and to sanction those responsible for the Lebanese stalemate, according to those reports. The country has been without a president since late October 2022.
In addition, Mikati once again raised the issue of the influx of migrants into Lebanon. "The country is still crumbling under the weight of successive waves of immigration, which have economic and social consequences [and] threaten Lebanon's very existence," he warned. His views were also expressed in a meeting with Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib also raised the issue with his Cypriot counterpart, Konstantínos Kómbos. The two foreign ministers discussed ways of cooperating on the issue of displaced persons and agreed on the need to find lasting solutions in their countries of origin. Neighboring Lebanon, Cyprus recently called on the European Union (EU), of which it is a member, to reconsider whether Syria remains a dangerous country to which member countries should be prevented from repatriating asylum seekers. The Syrian conflict, which broke out in 2011, has caused thousands of Syrians to flee to Lebanon, Cyprus and Europe.
Bou Habib also spoke with the Minister of State at the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Abdel Aziz al-Khoulaifi. "[Bou Habib] updated [Khoulaifi] on the meetings of the Group of Five in New York, reaffirming Qatar's readiness to provide all possible assistance to Lebanon," the NNA also reported.