Aoun Hails Tehran’s Stance on Lebanon

Zarif is optimistic about the future of cooperation between Iran and Lebanon, stressing that mutual collaboration is to the benefit of peace and stability in the region
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut, Lebanon, on Nov. 7.Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut, Lebanon, on Nov. 7.

Newly-elected Lebanese President Michel Aoun hailed Tehran's stance of supporting Lebanon's stability, in his first meeting as the Lebanese head of state with a foreign minister, Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Monday meeting at Baabda presidential palace in Beirut carried high political significance, knowing that Iran's President Hassan Rouhani was among the first leaders who congratulated the Christian leader on his election last week.

Pointing to challenges facing Lebanon, Aoun said the Arab country is fighting terrorist groups that "invaded its soil and attacked its nation".

Stressing the need for collective cooperation in the global community to battle the scourge, Aoun said Lebanon's big problems cannot be settled without peace in West Asia, IRNA reported.

"There is no alternative to the political settlement of Syrian crisis, restoration of stability to the region and the end of suffering of Syrian refugees in Lebanon," he said.

The over five-year-old crisis in neighboring Syria, which has pitted the Syrian Army against foreign-backed militants trying to bring down the government, has had spillovers for Lebanon, including the influx of more than a million Syrian refugees and frequent terrorist attacks by militants mainly operating in Syria.

Aoun called for deepening political and economic relations between Tehran and Beirut, hoping that a joint economic forum on Tuesday attended by Iranian and Lebanese businesses can help bring the two countries closer.

*** Victory for All

Zarif said Lebanon's political achievement in ending a 29-month presidential vacuum was a victory for "all of the Lebanese people".

Pointing to elements for unity between Iran and Lebanon, the Iranian minister said they face two common enemies, extremists and the Zionist regime of Israel, and beyond that, they have many shared interests in political and economic sectors.

"I'm very optimistic about the future of cooperation between the two countries and I believe that our collaboration is to the benefit of peace and stability in the region and is not harmful to anybody," he said.

A former army commander, Aoun was elected by the Lebanese Parliament as president last Monday. He then asked Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri to start consultations to form a new government, in which Hariri would be prime minister.

Under Lebanon's power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of parliament a Shia.

After his meeting with Aoun, Zarif also discussed bilateral relations and regional developments with his Lebanese counterpart, Gebran Bassil, on Monday.

On Tuesday, Zarif held talks with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Caretaker Prime Minister Tammam Salam, prime minister-designate Hariri and Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Zarif, who was accompanied on the two-day visit by a 45-strong political and economic delegation, also took part in the joint economic forum on Tuesday.

Speaking in the forum, Zarif said the removal of nuclear sanctions on Iran has prepared the ground for closer economic partnership.

"We have lots of opportunities to develop economic cooperation. We should start the work," he said.


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