Excluding Hezbollah and Jumblatt from Egyptian FM’s Meetings in Lebanon Raises Lots of Questions

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry traveled to Beirut on Monday to hold talks over the presidential vacuum in Lebanon and its consequences on the country’s future.

According to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zaid, the Egyptian FM’s visit to Lebanon aimed at confirming Egypt’s support for the Lebanese state and its institutions, and strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.

Shoukry met with several political figures including the prime minister, the foreign minister, the head of the parliament, and other representatives of political parties, where they focused on discussing the domestic political situation in Lebanon as well as suggestions and proposals to end the power vacuum.

The meeting witnessed the participation of a number Lebanese figures, including Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, head of the Lebanese Forces Party Samir Geagea, president of the Kataeb Party Samy Gemayel, former President Michel Soliman and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

The political actors, who were excluded from Sameh Shoukry’s meetings during his visit to Lebanon, were Hezbollah and Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and the Democratic Gathering parliamentary block.

Since May 2014, Lebanon has been without a president following the end of president Michel Suleiman’s term as parliament has been unable to elect a head of state since then due to deep disagreements.

According to a statement by Egypt’s FM, Egypt supports any initiatives that look to build consensus among rival parties, aiming at preventing Lebanon from entering a “dark tunnel” that would present a threat to the country’s political and economic conditions.

Shoukry also added that he has several suggestions that would help resolve the Lebanese crisis, including pushing for a new elections bill, formation of a Lebanese government as well as choosing a new head of state through a comprehensive deal.

However, despite Shoukry’s statements that tried to portray the visit as a positive move by the Egyptian side, but the visit was a one-sided initiative due to the absence of three main aspects:

First, the visit was empty of any political initiative to solve the presidential crisis in Lebanon although there were some talks about a probable meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, but it wasn’t affirmed by either the Egyptian or the Lebanese side.

Second, Egypt’s FM has boycotted Hezbollah from his meeting’s agenda, which is considered one of the most influential players in the Lebanese presidential file.

It is noteworthy that prior to Sameh Shoukry’s visit to Lebanon, the Egyptian prosecutor-general ordered an investigation into a police report that accuses former presidential candidates Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabahi of spying for Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The move came in the light of Abul-Fotouh and Sabahi’s participation in a conference in Lebanon called “The general Arab conference to support resistance and denounce it being labeled as terrorist.”

The conference was held in mid-July in Beirut to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Hezbollah’s victory against Israel in 2006. It also aimed to denounce the Arab League’s decision in March to declare Hezbollah a terrorist group.

Third, the Egyptian FM didn’t also meet MP Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Democratic Gathering parliamentary block. Also, neither Jumblatt nor his representatives were invited to the dinner provided by Egyptian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohamed Badr el-Deen Zayed.