Rear View – Lebanon in review (10 December 2021)
03 December: Information Minister resigns.
Weeks after making comments about the Yemeni Civil War that sparked the Lebanon-Gulf Crisis, Lebanese Information Minister George Khordahi has formally resigned from the government.
In a press conference at the Ministry of Information, Kordahi said: “In light of the new developments and French President Emmanuel Marcon’s visit to Saudi Arabia, I understood from [Lebanese Prime Minister] Mikati, whom I met three days ago, the importance of my resignation prior to Macron’s visit to Riyadh to pave the way for talks about the future of Saudi-Lebanese ties.”
Kordahi said: “I have thought about this long and hard, and I have called you all here to say that I will not accept to be used as a cause for harm.”
“I hope that my resignation will allow better relations with the Gulf states.”
Kordahi stressed that the comments he made in support of the Houthi rebel group in Yemen, who are opposed by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, were “out of good faith and love; I did not mean to offend anyone.”
Following Kordahi’s resignation, the exchange rate dropped by more than 2,500 Lebanese pounds in less than 24 hours.
Mikati had asked Kordahi, who is the representative of the Marada movement in the government, several times to submit his resignation, but the latter demanded “guarantees” before doing so, based on the position of Suleiman Frangieh (the head of Marada) and his ally Hezbollah, citing “national dignity.”
09 December: Beirut Explosion investigation continues.
The probe into the Beirut port blast has resumed after being suspended for more than a month after legal challenges against lead investigator, Judge Tarek Bitar.
The investigation was put on hold for a month after Judge Habib Mezher failed in his attempt to take over the case and have Judge Bitar removed.
The Court of Cassation has also rejected the lawsuits filed by former Minister Youssef Fenianos on November 25th. Minister Fenianos also requested the removal of Judge Bitar from the investigation. However, this request was rejected by the President of the 12th Chamber of the Court on December 7th, 2021.
In Judge Bitar’s view, that request was the last obstacle standing between him and completing the investigation. Bitar had previously assured the families of the victims that he would not back down from the investigation, regardless of the threats and immense pressure he has been facing.
04 December: France facilitates Saudi-Lebanese discussions.
French President Emmanuel Macron participated in a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Lebanon’s Prime Minister to help rehabilitate broken ties between the nations.
A joint Saudi-French statement following the phone call emphasized both nations’ keenness to establish security and stability in Lebanon, and linked “economic aid to Lebanon with the implementation of the required reforms.”
The statement reiterated demands that Lebanon should “implement comprehensive reforms, monitor borders, abide by the Taif Agreement, limit arms to the legitimate state institutions and not be a launching pad for any terrorist acts that destabilize the region (nor) a source of drug trafficking.”
Lebanese PM Najib Mikati said that his government was committed to taking all actions that would strengthen relations with Saudi Arabia and Gulf Cooperation Council countries and rejects everything that would harm their security and stability.
Macron was in Saudi Arabia as part of his two-day Gulf tour. Prior to the call he said, “We will do all we can to re-engage the Gulf regions for the benefit of Lebanon.”
08 December: High school teacher arrested for harassing students.
A teacher at a Tripoli high school has been arrested over allegations of harassment of female students. The arrest follows days of student protests outside the school demanding the teacher be held accountable for his actions.
The protestors also called for appropriate measures to be taken against the school administration and its principal for ignoring repeated previous complaints against the teacher, Samer Mawlawi.
Lebanese Education Minister Abbas Halabi ordered the teacher’s arrest, and the case was referred to the High Disciplinary Commission and the Juvenile Protection Authority at the Ministry of Justice.
Mawlawi denies all allegations against him, claiming that “this is an organised campaign against me because of my fame and success…People are saying all those things because they are bored and want something to do.” Mawlawi went on to claim that the screen shots and the testimonies made against him by young girls are all exaggerated and contain only parts of the truth.
Mawlawi is being held under arrest in Tripoli as protests against him continue, getting heated enough that the high school called the Lebanese Army to help control them.
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