Asiri: Presidential Vote Responsibility of Christians before Anyone Else's

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri announced Friday that the responsibility of electing a new Lebanese president falls on the shoulders of Christians before anyone else, stressing that any foreign interference in the vote is “unacceptable.”

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports any inter-Lebanese agreement on the election of a president, especially that that would achieve security, stability and prosperity for Lebanon,” Asiri said after meeting Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki.

But the ambassador underlined that “it is not beneficial, reasonable or acceptable for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or any other country to interfere in Lebanese affairs.”

“This juncture is the responsibility of Christians before anyone else's and they have a major responsibility towards their country,” Asiri added.

“They have partners in this country but I believe that this presidential post belongs to the Christian community first and foremost, and thus inter-Christian and inter-Lebanese consensus, in partnership with all political forces, might lead to something,” the envoy added.

He hoped the Lebanese will be able to “agree on someone who can confront the challenges,” noting that “Saudi Arabia welcomes any political consensus.”

Asiri also called on all political forces to join efforts with Bkirki in order to hold the presidential elections as soon as possible.

“We're going through a good period and we have a promising summer ahead should the presidential vote be held … and I believe that Lebanon will witness a good, fruitful and beneficial summer season,” the ambassador added.

A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held next Thursday, two days before the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure, amid fears that an absence of agreement between the March 8 and March 14 camps will plunge the country into a presidential vacuum.

Meanwhile, al-Rahi hailed Asiri's “role in Lebanon” and his “strenuous efforts to encourage Arab and Saudi tourists to return to Lebanon for summer tourism.”

The patriarch also asked the diplomat to convey his gratitude to Saudi King Abdullah over “the brotherly grant he has offered to the Lebanese Army.”

On Wednesday, Asiri and Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon announced that the kingdom lifted a travel ban to Lebanon after the security situation improved in the country.

Asiri had left Lebanon in September 2014 because “of the deteriorating security conditions,” as he stated at the time.

The Saudi diplomat stated upon his arrival in Beirut that there is no ban on visits by Saudi nationals to Lebanon.

Several Gulf states, including Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain had issued travel advisories, warning their citizens against visiting Lebanon after the country witnessed several security incidents linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria.


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