Palestinian minister says holding first meeting with Israel’s Lapid


BEIRUT: Lebanon is a “place of hope” and “should not be a platform for aggression”, Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah said on Sunday in Beirut.

On the second day of his visit to the capital, the minister renewed his commitment in separate meetings with Lebanese officials to a “Kuwaiti, Gulf, Arab and international message for Lebanon not to be a platform for any aggression, and that all borders be controlled by the state.”

The minister met on Sunday with President Michel Aoun, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi.

At the end of his talks with the Kuwaiti minister, Aoun stressed Lebanon’s “firm desire to preserve the best relations with Arab countries”.

The Kuwaiti minister spoke on Saturday evening with Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

He also met Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, who is due to visit Kuwait on Saturday.

Kuwait currently chairs the Arab League Ministerial Council.

Al-Sabah said the visit was part of various international efforts to restore trust between Lebanon and the international arena.

The statements of the Kuwaiti minister had three central themes.

The first was a message of “sympathy, solidarity, synergy and love for the brotherly Lebanese people”.

Second, Al-Sabah urged Lebanese officials to adopt a position of neutrality and ensure that the country “will not be a platform for any aggression, while refraining from interfering in internal affairs. Arab countries in general, and the Gulf in particular”.

His third message underlined a regional desire “to see a stable, secure and strong Lebanon by implementing international and Arab resolutions”.

Al-Sabah said Lebanon “will review the messages I conveyed to Lebanese officials and…we will receive a response soon.”

Lebanon’s relations with Gulf states plunged into a new crisis in October after comments by former Lebanese information minister George Kordahi criticizing the conflict in Yemen.

Kuwait was one of several Gulf Cooperation Council members, including Saudi Arabia, that responded to Kordahi’s remarks by expelling Lebanon’s ambassador and recalling its envoy to Beirut.

Aoun said in a tweet on Sunday that Lebanon was keen to maintain “the best relations” with the Gulf states and that Kuwaiti proposals would be discussed before an appropriate position was announced.

Some have linked Al-Sabah’s visit to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return to Lebanon, but the Kuwaiti minister denied such a link.

He stressed: “The visit has nothing to do with Lebanese internal affairs. We do not intervene in Lebanese affairs.

Hariri will announce on Monday his final decision on whether or not to run for the next legislative elections.

His press office said the former prime minister will deliver a speech at 4 p.m. Monday from his residence.

For the second day in a row, hundreds of Hariri supporters flocked to his home in the capital, demanding that he stand for election.

Addressing his supporters, Hariri said, “I listened to you today and I want you to listen to me tomorrow.

“I assure you that my blood is yours, and the doors of this house will always be open to receive you all.”

He told reporters: “Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.”

Supporters carried photos of Hariri with the Lebanese and Future Movement flags, chanting slogans in favor of the former prime minister.

They ask Hariri to reverse his decision to abstain from running in the elections, asking him not to abandon his supporters.

“Hariri and the Future Movement are among the main political symbols of the country, and we will not accept their abandonment,” said a supporter.

His decision is expected to have profound implications for the electoral process and Lebanese politics in general.

In his Sunday sermon, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi reiterated the importance of Lebanon’s neutrality.

“However, it is regrettable that this concept is completely absent from the speeches of officials and that Lebanon thus remains hostage to regional axes,” Al-Rahi added.

During his joint press conference on Sunday with the Lebanese interior minister, Al-Sabah said, “We discussed the issue of drug trafficking from Lebanon, and we appreciate what Lebanon is doing.”

He added: “We demanded mechanisms to ensure that the shipments do not reach Kuwait and the rest of the region, and that the Lebanese authorities do so to restore confidence.

“There is a general desire that all Lebanese borders and outlets be controlled by the state and that Lebanon becomes more secure and stable.”

Mawlawi, Lebanese Interior Minister, said: “I reiterate the position of Lebanon and the Interior Ministry which rejects any verbal abuse from Kuwait. We discussed all issues related to border control and drug trafficking.

A government source told Arab News: “The messages transmitted by Al-Sabah are the result of contacts between France, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and they are in line with the principles contained in the Mikati government’s ministerial statement.”

The source added, “These messages will be discussed and the Lebanese Foreign Minister will give Lebanon’s response during his visit to Kuwait.”

The source also commented on the possibility of Hezbollah ignoring these principles – as it has repeatedly done by insulting Gulf countries.

They said the position of the Lebanese government “is the only one that matters, because it represents all of Lebanon”.

The government’s position is based on the ministerial declaration which stresses Lebanon’s neutrality and insists on friendly relations with Arab and Gulf countries, the source added.

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