Lebanon’s ruling elite need to set aside personal interests and form a new government as soon as possible, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Beirut said Tuesday.
“I stressed the need to put the higher national interest first to launch drastic reforms that can restore the international community’s confidence in Lebanon,” Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Waleed Bukhari told reporters after meeting President Michel Aoun.
Ties between Beirut and Riyadh have soured in recent years as Iran-backed Hezbollah increased its influence across state institutions and expanded its participation in regional conflicts, including in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
But Bukhari assured the Lebanese people that Saudi Arabia always stood by Lebanon in full solidarity. “The Saudi vision for Lebanon is based on the pillars of the Kingdom’s foreign policy, which affirms respect for a country’s sovereignty and not interfering in its domestic affairs,” the Saudi diplomat added.
An earlier statement from Aoun’s office said he and Bukhari met to discuss the latest developments surrounding the formation of a new government in Lebanon.
Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri have been at odds over the shape and type of government to be formed. Aoun is demanding a blocking third, or veto power, for him and his Free Patriotic Movement party, while Hariri has said he would only head a government made up of independent experts.
The international community has pledged billions of dollars in soft loans and grants, but it has stipulated that an independent government implement badly needed reforms to root out decades of corruption and mismanagement. So far, Aoun and Hezbollah have refused to budge.