Lebanon gravitates to Moscow

Lebanon gravitates to Moscow

Yesterday, the Kremlin held negotiations between Vladimir Putin and President of Lebanon Michel Aoun. Russian President welcomed Aoun both as the leader of the Lebanese state and as the head of the Christian Community. Putin stressed that Moscow kept terms with the Lebanese government and representatives of various political forces and religions.

On January 31st, Lebanon announced finishing of a formation of the national unity government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Along with Hariri, the new cabinet includes 30 ministers who represent all ethnic and religious communities of the country and almost all major political forces. Gebran Bassil maintained the position of the foreign minister.

Commenting on the official visit of Aoun to Russia, Alexander Kuznetsov, the Deputy Director of the institute of Forecasting and Settling of Political Conflicts, stated that Russia was involved in the Syrian conflict while Lebanon and Syria should be considered as connecting vessels: “The Russian presence in Syria cannot but influence Lebanon. The states that were established after the WW II are majorly artificial formations. There is a concept of Great Syria. Pieces of the Great Syria are the Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel. Actually, it was a united geographical and geopolitical space. However, it was cut into pieces after the WW I within the Sykes–Picot Agreement and due to policies of various extraregional powers. Today, many external actors are influencing the situation in Lebanon: Saudi Arabia, the USA, Iran, France, and so on.”

Alexander Kuznetsov pointed out that Lebanon is a multireligious country: “Each of 18 religious communities is searching for a foreign protector to survive and succeed. For 25-30 years, Iran has been a patron for the Shiite community, Saudi Arabia – for the Sunni community, France traditionally influences Lebanese Christians, especially Maronites. When Russia improved its presence in Syria, the Russian factor began to be seriously considered in Lebanon.”

The expert noted that it was Michel Aoun’s first visit to Russia but the dynamics of contacts was advancing: “It is the second term for Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Since 2016, he visits Russia annually. Last time, he was in Moscow in September 2018. Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil regularly visits Russia and holds phone sessions with our Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In 2016, Interior Minister of Lebanon Nohad Machnouk also visited Russia. The politician is close to Hariri and reputable in the Sunni community of Lebanon. He negotiated on mutual anti-terrorist struggle, possible import of arms for the Lebanese police, the Interior Ministry, and various forces. Defense Minister of Lebanon Yacoub Sarraf participated in the security conference in April 2018. Moreover, leaders of various movements, parties, and groups often visit Russia. It seems Moscow is now the center of pilgrimage for Lebanese politicians.”

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