Abdallah Bou says Lebanon will guarantee that the country will not be used as a ‘launching platform’ to violate the interests of Arab countries.
Lebanon will not “hand over” Hezbollah’s weapons, the country’s foreign minister said before a meeting with its Gulf Arab counterparts to restore ties.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have suspended diplomatic ties with Lebanon after air of comments by then-Information Minister George Kordahi, who criticized Riyadh-led military intervention in Yemen. Kordahi, an ally of Hezbollah, resigned in December.
“I am not going (to Kuwait) to hand over Hezbollah’s weapons. I’m not going to end Hezbollah’s existence, it’s out of the question in Lebanon. We are going for dialogue, ”Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib told Al Jazeera, referring to a meeting aimed at restoring ties between Beirut and Arab Gulf states.
However, in a nod to concerns about the Gulf, Lebanon will say that the country will not “be a launching pad for activities that violate Arab countries”, according to sources familiar with a draft government letter responding to the Gulf provisions for improved tires, Reuters reported.
Lebanon will deliver its response at the meeting in Kuwait on Saturday to the conditions for thawing relations, which suffered as the Hezbollah-armed group, a close ally of Iran, became more powerful in Beirut and the region.
Hezbollah supports Iran in its regional struggle for influence with US-allied Gulf Arab states, which says the group has helped the Iran-bound Houthis in Yemen.
The war in Yemen, aimed at restoring President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government, has led to what the UN called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Hezbollah, founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has a powerful militia. Hezbollah fighters have backed pro-Iranian allies in the region, including Syria.
The group and its allies also exercise great power over Lebanese state policy.
The provisions delivered to Beirut by Kuwait Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah on January 22 include the establishment of a timeframe for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1559 which was accepted in 2004 and calls for the disarmament of non-state militias in Lebanon.
A draft of the government’s response seen by Reuters sidestepped the issue and expressed Lebanon’s respect for UN resolutions “to ensure civil peace and national stability”.
But it does not mention any specific UN resolution or any steps to implement it.
Bou Habib told Al Jazeera that the implementation of Resolution 1559, which would require Hezbollah’s disarmament, “would take time”.
The Gulf rupture has contributed to the problems facing Lebanon as it struggles with a financial crisis that the World Bank has described as one of the sharpest depressions ever recorded.
The crisis is rooted in Saudi Arabia’s unrest over Iran’s growing influence in the region, including in Lebanon, once a traditional Saudi ally and recipient of financial assistance from the oil – rich kingdom.
In early January, the leader of the Shia movement, Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, launched a verbal attack against the kingdom, and accused Riyadh of spreading “extremist Islamic ideology”.
The visit to Beirut last week by the Kuwaiti foreign minister was the first since the split. He said Lebanon should not be a platform for hostile acts or words towards Arab Gulf states, and that members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were sympathetic to the Lebanese people.
In the draft letter seen by Reuters, Lebanon commits “verbally and actually” to a policy of dissociation from regional conflicts – a policy adopted by successive governments, even though Hezbollah has deployed fighters to Syria.
It also promises to step up measures taken by Lebanon in cooperation with other Arab states to prevent drug smuggling to Arab Gulf states.
Hezbollah’s opponents accuse him of links to local drug trafficking – something he denies. In December, the GCC called on Lebanon to tighten border controls and take measures to stave off drug smuggling through exports to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.