Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Zarif, Assad Delegation in Beirut to Congratulate Aoun…Iran Seeks 'Improving Relations' - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut- Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif landed on Monday in Beirut to congratulate President Michel Aoun for his election. His arrival was preceded by the visit of a delegation sent by President of the Syrian Regime Bashar Assad for the same purpose.

Some Lebanese considered both visits an attempt to show that the “election of Aoun represents a victory for the Iranian axis.”

However, an MP with the Lebanese Forces parliamentary bloc Antoine Zahra asserted on Monday that the policy of the new government “would not be set by the Syrian regime or any other member of its axis.”

Zahra told Asharq Al-Awsat there is an attempt to adopt the policy of distancing Lebanon from regional crisis that was already set by the previous government, in addition to enhancing the independence of Lebanon’s foreign policy.

“The period of the Syrian tutelage is gone,” he said.

The visit of the Syrian delegation on Monday, which was preceded last week by a immense flower bouquet sent by Assad to his Lebanese counterpart, is an attempt to wrap Aoun’s comments delivered last week when he asserted Lebanon should stay away from foreign disputes, respect the Arab League protocol and adopt an independent foreign policy.

“There is no doubt that the moment Aoun was elected president, the states of the Iranian axis tried to allude they had won in Lebanon,” Zahra said.

However, he added, the response came by Aoun himself during his Sunday speech when he vowed Lebanon “will not be subordinate to any other country.”

Zahra said Aoun’s comments placed the frames of Lebanon’s foreign relations.

However, Zarif’s visit carried signs of Iran’s intention to cooperate with Lebanon at the economic level.

After meeting Aoun at the Presidential Palace, Zarif said: “I am absolutely confident that there is an available field for our countries to bolster and anchor the political and economic bilateral relations, in a way that only leads to clinching security, calm, and stability in the region.”

On Monday, the Iranian Foreign Minister also met with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil. On Tuesday, he is expected to meet with Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

Aoun had received on Monday morning a Syrian delegation headed by Minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Azzam, who relayed Assad’s felicitations to Aoun.

Following the meeting, Assam told reporters Aoun confirmed the deep ties between both countries and their peoples.

“As long as Lebanon and Syria identify Israel and terrorism as their common enemy, then both countries are partners in confronting this enemy as the final need for the stability of our states.”