Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Lebanon ’s Foreign Ministry coordinates with its Syrian counterpart “on the basis of two sovereign and independent states” according to the Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh. Talk of the ministry being subordinate to foreign parties belong to a time “which has passed”.
In an interview with Asharq al Awsat, after a busy day of meetings, the Foreign Minister said he supported Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s call for reform, which he believed should extend “to other ministries” as well.
He denied the Ministry answered to a third party and said, “The Ministry is subordinate to no one. It implements the government’s foreign policy and the cabinet’s decisions.”
“Lebanese missions abroad are connected to the ministry in Lebanon. If we discover that any head of mission is not complying with established procedures, he will be held to account.”
However, Salloukh noted that Lebanon was coordinating its foreign policy with some Arab and friendly governments “on specific issues”.
“With regards to talks about our [the Ministry’s] subordination to Syria , this refers to a period of time which has passed. We coordinate with Syria as a free, independent and sovereign country dealing with another free and sovereign country.”
The Lebanese diplomatic corps currently has a number of vacancies, pending the announcement of frozen diplomatic appointments. The post of ambassador is vacant in a number of embassies, including the United Nations and Japan , and it will soon be vacant in other embassies, such as London , Vienna and UNESCO.
On the other hand, many ambassadors have served for a considerable length of time, in violation of Lebanese laws and regulations. Some ambassadors have even served for more than 10 years instead of returning to Lebanon.
Denying the presence of a “political impediment” facing the diplomatic appointments, Salloukh said, “We are discussing the appointments and will complete the process soon.” Nevertheless, he admitted, “There are some issues that need to be resolved.”
The Lebanese Foreign Minister revealed that President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Siniora had not set any political conditions and that both wanted the appointments to be made “today, rather than tomorrow”. He denied the presence of sectarian quotas because, “The composition of the diplomatic corps is well-known, with each group receiving its due share.”
On the controversy surrounding the Francophone summit, scheduled for September in Bucharest and to which Lahoud has not been invited, Salloukh said there was no alternative but to extend an invitation to the Lebanese president. The failure to do contravenes international norms and Lebanese regulations, which give the President the right to represent the country abroad.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry had written to its Romanian counterpart asking it to correct the error, Salloukh said. If no reply was received by Wednesday, he added, the issue would be referred to the Cabinet.
Salloukh avoided to mention France ’s role in the crisis but hinted at this by calling on Romania not to accept outside pressures.
“We most amicably ask Romania and France- if it sees itself a third party- to look at the issue objectively”, the minister said. He also denied being in contact with “French allies” and noted that invitations are “the host country’s responsibility”.