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Ban may visit Beirut

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gives statements about Syria, Gaza and the downing of a Malaysian airline over Ukraine July 17, 2014 at UN headquarters in New York. (AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA)

In an expression of international support for Lebanon amid the current regional turmoil, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon might visit Beirut, sources told The Daily Star. The sources explained that Ban might visit Beirut as well as other countries in the region as part of wider efforts to restore calm between Palestinians and Israelis.

The recent arrival of Beirut’s ambassador to the U.N., Nawaf Salam, to Lebanon indicates that a visit is highly possible.

Ban’s visit would be a positive sign that the international community and the members of the U.N. Security Council have a unified position with respect to Lebanon. It would also reflect their concern for Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty and stability in the face of the mounting challenges the country is facing, the sources said.

The sources believe that Lebanon’s stability – at the security, political and economic levels – is in the interest of major U.N. member states. This was reflected in last year’s statement by council members, which emphasized international support for the Lebanese and a policy of disassociation from the Syrian war.

The secretary-general’s visit would be reassuring, especially after the International Support Group for Lebanon’s meetings in Paris and Rome. Lebanon is in dire need of aid from the international community, as its domestic affairs remain on the verge of collapsing.

Meanwhile, a ministerial source close to Prime Minister Tammam Salam said talks related to the controversial matters currently facing the Cabinet were going nowhere.

These issues are either related to the thorny task of assigning new deans and full-time professors at the Lebanese University, or to providing a solution to funding the salaries of public-sector employees before the end of the month.

The source explained that current discussions between political factions among March 14 and March 8 groups have not led to any positive outcome that could allow for some flexibility within the Cabinet.

The ministerial source said that Salam was given diplomatic advice not to give the impression that the Cabinet was paralyzed.

Salam, who has prioritized preserving the work of the country’s institutions, was warned against showing signs of weakness, as this might have negative consequences, particularly amid the delicate security situation that the country has been facing.

The suicide attacks that Lebanon witnessed last month, as well as the barrage of rocket fire from south Lebanon toward Israel and the ongoing fighting along the eastern border, show that the situation is still tense.

Over the weekend, intense fighting took place along the border with Syria between the Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah, and opposition fighters.

Media reports said that around 3,000 rebels were preparing to implement a dangerous operation that could lead to open-ended clashes in the Bekaa Valley.

The sources also explained that the Cabinet’s work had been sluggish because a certain political party was not cooperating with the agreed mechanism to govern the country during a presidential void, a system that took many sessions to formulate.

March 8 ministers have insisted on having agreement on all issues and granting ministers the right to veto disputed items and put aside all the controversial ones until they are settled.

However, some political factions have violated the mechanism by saying they will not discuss any other item until the Lebanese University dispute is resolved.

Yet the sources believe there is still hope, claiming that there will be much discussion in the upcoming Cabinet session Thursday to find a solution.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 21, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

In an expression of international support for Lebanon amid the current regional turmoil, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon might visit Beirut, sources told The Daily Star.

Ban's visit would be a positive sign that the international community and the members of the U.N. Security Council have a unified position with respect to Lebanon.

The sources believe that Lebanon's stability – at the security, political and economic levels – is in the interest of major U.N. member states.

The sources believe there is still hope, claiming that there will be much discussion in the upcoming Cabinet session Thursday to find a solution.


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