Lebanon president on first Gulf trip since PM crisis

Aoun visit follows a tense standoff between Lebanon and heavyweight Saudi Arabia
Lebanon president on first Gulf trip since PM crisis
Wed 24 Jan 2018 08:27 AM

Lebanese President Michel Aoun led a delegation to Kuwait Tuesday, his government's first visit to the Gulf since the shock resignation and return of the prime minister late last year.

The "positive" visit, with talks on bilateral issues, was "an achievement in itself", said Lebanon's Minister of State for Administrative Reform Inaya Ezzeddine, speaking at a reception for the Lebanese community in Kuwait City.

"The Emir of Kuwait expressed his readiness during the bilateral talks to support Lebanon in all files, and for Kuwait to back Lebanon in the region," she said.

The delegation met with the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development, which Ezzeddine said she hoped would bear fruit for Lebanon's revitalisation plans.

"This government is in the process of developing new economic and development visions and God willing we will secure ways to finance them," she said, adding that Lebanon was working to finalise financial studies ahead of a planned support conference in Paris.

Kuwait, for its part, has increasingly emerged as a regional force of moderation, taking on mediation of the Gulf political crisis.

The Aoun visit follows a tense standoff between Lebanon and heavyweight Saudi Arabia over the shock resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Riyadh in November.

Hariri's surprise announcement sent tremors through Lebanon and the region, with many suspecting the Saudis of forcing him out.

The crisis was defused when French President Emmanuel Macron invited Hariri for talks in Paris, after which the prime minister returned home to a hero's welcome - and returning to France in December for a conference of in support of his government.

That meet ended with plans for three follow-up conferences: one in Paris in early 2018 on boosting investment in Lebanon; another in Rome on building up Lebanon's regular army; and a third in Brussels on helping the roughly 1.5 million Syrian refugees that have fled there.

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