Rear View – Lebanon in review (23 May 2021)
19 May: Foreign minister quits after insulting gulf allies
Lebanon’s foreign minister, Charbel Wehbe, resigns after his comments that Gulf states had supported the rise of ISIS seriously strained ties with traditional allies and donors including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
The comments have threatened Lebanese efforts amid its deep economic crisis to improve ties with Sunni Muslim Gulf states, which have been reluctant to offer the kind of financial help they once did because of their frustration at the rising influence of Hezbollah, a Lebanese group backed by Shi’ite Iran as well as the rampant corruption throughout the government, and the finance and banking sectors.
Political and religious figures flocked to see Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Waleed Bukhari, on Wednesday to condemn Wehbe’s comments and announce their solidarity with the Kingdom.
21 May: Syrians in Lebanon clash with locals in bid to vote for Assad
Thousands of Syrians including refugees clashed with Lebanese troops and crowds outside the Syrian embassy in Beirut as they tried to vote ahead of Syria’s national election on 3 June.
Groups of angry Lebanese beat up Syrian expatriates and refugees heading to the Syrian embassy to cast their votes , and threw stones at their vehicles, outraged over what they perceive as an organized vote for Assad. There have been rumours that Hezbollah organised transport for voters from across Lebanon to the embassy.
Calls for Syrians in Lebanon to return to their country have become a deeply divisive politicised issue over the decade-long civil war in Syria, and has recently been exacerbated by the upcoming election in Syria.
Assad is running for a fourth term, facing symbolic competition from two other candidates in a vote that is all but guaranteed to see him continue as president.
21 May: Dutch court orders Ghosn to repay nearly €5M in wages
Ghosn, the French-Lebanese-Brazilian national was seeking €15 million (USD$18 million) for illegal dismissal but the court in Amsterdam said that there was no current contract between him and Nissan-Mitsubishi’s Dutch holding firm.
Ghosn is wanted by Japan on charges of financial misconduct but remains at large in Lebanon, where he fled while on bail.
The court said Ghosn was “not entitled to fair compensation, transitional compensation or arrears, as no employment contract has existed between him and the company. The necessary permission from the board was lacking.”
The court said the previous contract that began in July 2012 had expired in April 2018, and that Ghosn must now repay wages he earned between April and November 2018.
22 May: Hariri refuses to form president referred government
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri refused to give in to pressure from the March 8 block headed by President Aoun, to form a government that caters to their demands and did not address the crisis in the country.
Hariri said: “I will not form a government as the team of his excellency the president wants it, nor as any other political group wants it. I will only form the government that stops the collapse and prevents the great crash that threatens the Lebanese – their food, health, lives and their nation.”
Former US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs David Schenker said in an interview with Al-Hurra channel on Friday that “President Aoun and MP Gebran Bassil, the president’s son-in-law, do not want a technocratic government that begins with reforms because that would undermine Hezbollah’s position, as well as some political ambitions of Lebanese politicians.”
23 May: Cinemas and theatres reopen as Covid-19 cases decline
The country’s national committee for COVID-19 also announced that weddings, conferences, and exhibitions would also be allowed, capped at 100 maximum attendees and 50 percent capacity of the venue.
Lebanon went on a strict lockdown for 7 weeks at the beginning of the year, when daily coronavirus cases were exceeding 3,000.
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