In a surprising move, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Lebanese capital, Beirut, for a couple of hours.
“The United States is concerned the presidential vacuum in Lebanon will exacerbate political tensions and possibly hinder the Army’s ability to respond to national emergencies,” Kerry said.
In a clear interference in the Lebanese internal affairs, Kerry listed the stalemate and consequent presidential void first in a litany of reasons for his short visit to Lebanon Wednesday, which also included the refugee crisis and concerns about regional stability.
“The political stalemate here in Lebanon is deeply troubling,” Kerry said in remarks after a meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail.
“The capacity of the armed forces to respond to a crisis could be affected by the absence of a president,” Kerry said, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
“The confidence of the people of the country and the fabric of the politics of the country could be affected by the absence of a president. Ultimately, the tensions that could grow within a Cabinet, or outside of the Cabinet within the Parliament and the politics of the country, could become tenser as a result of not having a sense that there is a respect of the National Pact and for the balance that should exist within the governing of Lebanon,” Kerry said.
” Lebanon needs and Lebanon deserves to have a fully functioning, complete government, and we hope Parliament will select a president quickly,” he added. “This is not a time for business as usual. The challenges are just too significant.”
Still, Kerry denied that the US was supporting a particular candidate for the presidency. “We don’t have a candidate. We’re not in the business of trying to select or put proposals on the table,” he said.
“We need a government that’s free from foreign influence,” Kerry claimed.
The United States will continue supporting Lebanon during the presidential vacuum, Kerry assured, despite the fact that stewardship of the country is now in the hands of the Cabinet, which includes members of Hizbullah.
“I did assure the prime minister that the United States will remain a strong and reliable partner, and we will continue to support Lebanon and its institutions.”
In Beirut, Kerry reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Zionist entity. “”Israel” is our friend, our strong ally.”
“President Obama has constructed a security relationship with “Israel” that is more interconnected, more cooperative, more extensive than any security relationship between the United States and “Israel” at any time in history,” he said. “There is nothing changing in our security relationship. That is ironclad.”
After the meeting, Salam’s office released a statement distancing the premier from Kerry’s comments on US-“Israeli” ties and denying he had discussed US-“Israeli” relations during his meeting with Kerry.
Kerry also met with Marionite Patriarch Beshara Rai and, later, with Speaker Nabih Berri at the latter’s residence. “We had a very good meeting,” Kerry said after his talks with Berri.