THE STORIES BEHIND THE HEADLINES

Abu Dhabi

London

New York

Tuesday 20th March 2018

Iran’s Zarif to Visit Lebanon, Meet with Officials

Politics

Enass Sherri

Fri, 08 Feb 2019 22:11 GMT

Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, will be paying a two-day visit to the Lebanon, starting on Sunday, February 10th, local Lebanese dailies reported. During his stay, Tehran’s top diplomat will meet with Lebanese officials, including President Michel Aoun, and Hezbollah militia Chief, Hassan Nasrallah.

Zarif’s visit comes about four days after Nasrallah reaffirmed that Iran is prepared to offer Lebanon arms and money, in addition to so-called ‘capabilities’, which he refrained from specifying.  

The Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Beirut was originally planned to explain his country's position on the conflict with the United States, a Lebanese diplomatic source told the Al-Markaziyah daily. Alarmingly, Zarif’s upcoming meeting with Nasrallah suggests that the Iran-aligned Hezbollah militia in Lebanon will not be disassociated from future Iranian-American confrontation.  

Nasrallah had previously asserted the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia will not hesitate in backing the cleric-led Tehran regime in any battle, possibly dragging Lebanon into an unwanted conflict.   

The source pointed out that Zarif will hold bilateral talks with the Lebanese president, prime minister, parliament speaker and minister of foreign affairs. He will also deliver an offer of the Iranian air defence system to the Lebanese army. 

Lebanon has recently formed a new national unity government, ending nearly nine months of political logjam. Although the formation was welcomed by fellow states worldwide, many warned of the Hezbollah militia’s growing influence in the Middle Eastern country.  

The US particularly voiced its concerns about the sanctioned militant Hezbollah group naming a health minister and two other posts in Lebanon's Cabinet and called on the new government to ensure the ministries' resources do not provide support to the organization. 

“We call on the new government to ensure the resources and services of these ministries do not provide support to Hezbollah,” US State Deputy spokesman, Robert Palladino, said. 

Lebanon had declared a principle of "disassociation" in 2012 to keep the deeply-divided state formally out of complex regional disputes such as the lengthy war in neighbouring Syria. Nevertheless, Hezbollah disregarded the disassociation policy and has been engaged in heavily-armed fighting in Syria, alongside Syrian regime head Bashar Al-Assad. 


Middle East