Naharnet

Hariri Meets Erdogan in Bid to Muster Global Support

Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri is seeking international support after Hizbullah brought down his government.

On Friday Hariri discussed the political turmoil in Lebanon with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Hariri arrived in Ankara late Thursday after having met with President Barack Obama in Washington and stopped in France for a meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy en route to Turkey.

Officials with the Turkish prime minister said the two leaders may comment to the media after their meeting although no press conference was scheduled.

In a move led by Hizbullah, 11 ministers withdrew from Hariri's hard-won unity government Wednesday, forcing its collapse and plunging the country back into crisis.

The move was linked to a long-running dispute over the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is reportedly set to indict high-ranking Hizbullah operatives in the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri, Saad's father.

The resignations came after Saudi Arabia and Syria failed in their bid to find a compromise between the two rival camps.

The 11 ministers withdrew from the government, formed in November 2009, at the exact moment Hariri was in Washington holding talks on the crisis with U.S. President Barack Obama.

NATO member Turkey has sought a stronger role in Middle East affairs since Erdogan's Islamist-rooted party came to power in 2002.

The Hizbullah- led March 8 coalition quit the government Wednesday, causing it to collapse. It is now making a bid to install an ally as prime minister.

If Hizbullah succeeds, its patrons in Iran and Syria would have far more sway in that volatile corner of the Middle East — something Washington has worked to prevent, The Associated Press reported.

It said that if negotiations between Hizbullah and the Western-backed bloc fail, that could rekindle street protests and violence in Lebanon.

Turkey, which has built closer ties with Lebanon since participating in the Lebanon peacekeeping force after the 2006 Hizbullah-Israel war in southern Lebanon, believes it could play a role in returning stability to the region.

"The stability of Lebanon is important for the stability of the region," the Anatolia news agency quoted Turkey's Foreign Minister Davutoglu as saying. "We regard all Lebanese as Turkey's friends, regardless of their political view, sect or religion."

The Turkish prime minister's vociferous criticism of Israel's treatment of Palestinians has sharply raised his profile in the Islamic world. Turkey's relations with Israel hit an all-time low in May, when Israeli naval commandos killed nine activists on a Turkish aid ship that tried to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.

Source: Agence France Presse, Associated Press


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